Great news in the media last week for midlife cyclists. (That’s us!)
Ageing does not have to bring poor health and frailty, scientists have claimed, after discovering that the most active people in their 70s are as fit as those in their 50s.
A study of older cyclists found that there was little physical difference between people aged 79 and those aged 55 if they maintained similar levels of exercise.
Researchers at King’s College London say the findings debunk the common assumption that ageing automatically makes people doddery and infirm.
The team picked super-fit amateur cyclists between 55 and 79 and tested a wide range of physical functions commonly associated with ageing such as aerobic fitness, resting heart rate, skeletal mass, breathing ability and muscle density.
A few friends raised the following worry: Cycling after 60 may have a selection effect. That is, it might be the case that the folks who get “old and doddery” quit riding. Maybe it’s a special group of seniors who keep on pushing the pace into old age.
And there is that. But at least this shows that decline isn’t necessary. That for some people at least, staying active wards off some of the health issues associated with aging.
The 84 male and 41 female cyclists picked for the study had to be able to cycle 100km in under 6.5 hours and 60km in 5.5 hours, respectively, to be included in the study.
Of course there was also the “glass is half empty” friend, 55 years old, who said, “So basically, you’re telling me I’m already 79.” Got to love academics
The New York Times also had a great article of aging, “The Liberation of Growing Old.”
Age resistance is a futile kind of life resistance: We can’t live outside time, we begin to age the moment we’re born. But the emerging age-acceptance movement neither decries nor denies the aging process. It recognizes that one can remain vital and present, engaged and curious, indeed continue to grow, until one’s dying breath. Then we need only echo the wish of the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott: “May I be alive when I die.”
More thoughts from me on aging:
- Run for your life!: Stories of three amazing older athletes
- Is Aging a Lifestyle Choice?
- Women who care most about their looks have the toughest time aging
- On not growing old gracefully
- Aging and the myth of wearing out your joints
- Silver haired speed: Bicycles, racing, and age
- Three books about inspirational older athletes