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Cyclists Age Better: Exercise in Old Age Boosts Immune System

7 minute read


It is not news that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. Along with a balanced and nutritious diet, exercise helps you to lose weight, stay in shape, and promote overall health and longevity.

It seems that exercise also has benefits for your immune system, especially as we get older and our body begins to age.

Stay Active and Stay Healthy

Studies have shown that exercising in your older years of life helps prevent your immune system from suffering age-related decline. It is well known that old age has been associated with increased risk of infection and illness, and exercise could be the best solution.

125 long-distance cyclists were studied, and researchers found that even though they were well into their eighties, they had the immune systems of a twenty-year-old.

| Related: High-Intensity Workouts Can Slow the Aging Process |

Decline of body function is a natural part of the aging process, as such, we become more exposed to injury and infection. This study shows that exercise boosts the immune system in such a way that, even as we age, we have added protection from disease and illness.

T-cells produced by the thalamus are responsible for protecting against infection. As we age the thalamus gets smaller, producing fewer of these helpful immune cells.

What the study of the cyclists showed was that exercise allowed the body to maintain the higher levels of T-cells that we have when we are younger. Inactivity in old age shows decreased thalamus activity and a lower number of T-cells in the blood.

| Related: Exercise Keeps the Mind Sharp in Over-50s |

Given that our bodies evolved to be active, it makes sense that a sedentary lifestyle would be a disadvantage to our health. Exercise is something our body naturally needs to maintain optimal health levels.

Don’t Let Old Age Slow You Down

Exercise is beneficial at any age, but it is especially important to stay active the older you get. It is a common misconception that as we get older we should start taking it easy.

This doesn’t mean you should be running marathons as a senior, but, as long as you’re alive, your body and mind can benefit from regular physical activity. You can decide to tone down from vigorous to moderate exercise, but by no means should you take off those running shoes for good.

| Related: The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles |

Exercise not only increases longevity, but it can ease symptoms of some serious diseases and conditions. It also benefits mood and mental health. When you combine this with the boosted immune system already discussed, exercise should be on every senior citizen schedule.

You can exercise at home or in a gym, take daily walks or do some laps in the pool. So long as you’re moving, the aging process cannot slow you down.

Here are the many improvements exercise can make in your life.

Extended Lifespan

The World Health Organization reports that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the top ten causes for death and disability in the world. An inactive lifestyle puts you at greater risk for heart disease and increases your chances of injury.

By not moving, your muscles become weaker, as do your bones and joints, therefore making them more susceptible to damage. Even the gentlest exercise daily, such as walking or swimming, can add between three to five years to your life.

| Related: Powerful Qigong Exercises for Arthritic Knees |

A lack of exercise, when combined with a bad diet, also increases your chances of becoming overweight, which only adds more strain to an inactive frame.

Prevent Falls and Injuries

Regular exercise improves muscle strength and bone density, which reduces your chance of falling. It also improves your chances of recovery should you experience a fall.

Additionally, muscle tone improves balance, helping prevent the falls in the first place.

Hip fractures are the most common injury from a fall in elderly individuals. This painful outcome can be avoided, as a regular active routine lowers your risk of hip fracture by 40 percent.

Better Heart Health

Cardiovascular exercise involves any movements that get your heart rate going. A brisk walk, cycling around the block a few times, or even some light housework or gardening will do the trick.

An elevated heart rate increases blood flow to your brain and your heart, resulting in improved mood, cognition, and a healthier heart. A reduction in myocardial cells because of aging causes strain on the heart, which increases your chances of a heart attack.

Cardiovascular exercise helps to reverse this and improves heart function.

Prevent Dementia

A little memory loss is expected as we get older, but dementia and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are just frightening. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle is linked to increased chances of dementia.

Physical activity improves blood flow to the brain, which enhances overall brain function. To stave off age-related brain decline and Alzheimer’s, you need to keep right on moving through your golden years.

Prevent or Delay Disease

Exercise has been shown to effectively remedy several chronic conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. It can also help to keep cholesterol levels within healthy ranges and support weight maintenance.

Improved Emotional Health:

Exercise increases production of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. In addition to this, regular physical activity improves balance, boosting confidence for elderly individuals who do not fear falling.

Aging can have negative impacts on people, and depression and anxiety are not uncommon in elderly individuals. Exercise helps to combat this by increasing the feel-good chemicals, improving physical appearance and confidence, improving sleep, and preventing depression.

The Bottom Line

Evolutionarily speaking, our bodies need to move. It is a dangerous misconception that we need to slow down as we get older.

When we stop moving, we invite disease and frailty to take over. Fitness can be both rewarding and enjoyable.

You can pick the routine you like, put on those golden oldies, and get your feet moving to the sweet sounds of good health and an extended lifespan.

READ NEXT >>> Fitness Past 50: How to Stay Healthy

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