A new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation shows that exercise cannot ward off the effects of ageing. Excerpt from the Associated Press report.
A treadmill test given to different age groups showed that as people aged, their aerobic capacity -- the amount of oxygen consumed while exercising -- declined at higher rates with each passing decade whether they exercised or not.In my opinion, there is too much hope and hype involved in exercise. As the report points out, exercise can improve a person's health and fitness, but the deterioration in the body associated with ageing is an intrinsic process. It affects the body at a cellular and even genetic level -- see, for example, my previous posts on telomeres and ageing "Stress and ageing" and "Obesity and smoking affect biological age". While exercise causes the body to adapt closer to its capacity -- that is, it causes the body to become fitter -- that capacity -- the maximum fitness that the body can attain -- itself declines with age.
The researchers knew the rate of decline would worsen with age, but they were surprised by the magnitude, said Dr. Jerome L. Fleg, a cardiologist who is lead author of the study and a medical officer at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Maryland.
"I guess we were a little disappointed that regular exercise didn't make a difference in the rate of decline," he said.
However, he pointed out that those who exercise still end up ahead because their aerobic capacity was higher to begin with.
"If I start higher, I'm going to end higher," Fleg said. "Having a higher aerobic capacity translates into being more fit."
The idea in some that exercise can arrest or reverse that age-related decline in fitness capacity was always a bit of wishful thinking.