Sunday, 17 August 2008


Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine recently published the results of an extremely lengthy study into the benefits of aerobic exercise, in particular jogging, for older people.

The study lasted for over two decades and tracked 500 runners aged 50 or over at the beginning of the study. 284 of the study participants were regular runners, while the remaining 156 healthy "controls" were non-runners.

At the start of the study, participants ran for an average of four hours per week. By the time the study wound up, these people were in their 70s or 80s and ran about 76 minutes a week.

The outcome of the research revealed just 15 percent of the regular runners had succumbed to the ravages of age and had died, while 34 percent of the non-runners had died during the same time.

The study's lead author is Dr. James Fries, an emeritus professor of medicine at Stanford said people who had regular exercise regimen would spend less time being disabled even as their days neared an end.

Dr Fries said exercise was by far the best thing to delay aging, "The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought. If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise," he added.

Some 21 years after the study all participants experienced some amount of disability, but for the runners, the onset was delayed. Also deaths from heart disease, diabetes and neurological disease were also less in the running group.

This report confirms the obvious that you not only look and feel better if you take reasonable amounts of exercise but you will also look better. We are not talking marathon running here which is excessive and does cause damage to the joints of the body but a gentle three-mile run three to four times a week and some stretching.

One thing the research did not go into was the effect exercise has on hormones - it is scientifically proven that you produce more Human Growth Hormone as a result of exercise - this is one of the key hormones that declines with age.

Also you produce more of the feel good hormones such as a Seratonin after exercise.

So after a few months of neglecting my usual exercise regime - two hours cycling to work and back and a 45 minute jog - I have started to get back into regular exercise.

It is wise for those older individuals who have never exercised to seek doctors advice and get a checkup before embarking on anything too strenuous which might be a shock to the body.

I began my regime yesterday with two circuits round my local park. On the way back home I popped into my local shop for a bottle of water, covered in perspiration, where the young lad said: "Have you been running - you look really tired!" Hmmm - but 10 minutes later after a shower I felt better than I had in weeks. And no aches or pains.

So the best advice for older consumers appears to be to put on your running shoes and start going - this may delay aging in more ways than you know.

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