Marc Beaulieu » CBC »
UK researchers have found that elderly people who get plenty of exercise seem to be staving off the expected decline of their immune systems… by about 60 years. Data yielded from 125 long-distance cyclists, many of whom were in their 80s, showed that they had the high-functioning, infection-thwarting immune systems of 20 year olds. Feel free to hop on the stationary bike that’s been collecting dust in your basement as you read the rest of this.
Professor Janet Lord, study co-author and director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, explains that “the immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.” But her data shows that the steadily weakening immune response that would normally leave us increasingly vulnerable as we age is far from a fate we must all simply accept. So long as exercise is a priority. “Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70 or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues,” says Lord.
The health boon for the ageing endurance cyclists studied, explain researchers, hinges on the production of a lymphocyte (or white blood cell) known as a T cell. Side note: endurance cycling events typically range from 100 km to 300 km rides. For context, 100 klicks on a bike will likely take you about 3 hours — so do ease in slowly if you’re inspired but it’s been a long winter of sofa comas.
Fergus Walsh » BBC »
Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King’s College London, who took part in and co-authored the research, said: “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.
“It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.”
Steve Harridge, co-author and professor of physiology at King’s College London, said: “Being sedentary goes against evolution because humans are designed to be physically active.
“You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to reap the benefits – or be an endurance cyclist – anything which gets you moving and a little bit out of puff will help.”
Related Study » Major features of immunesenescence, including reduced thymic output, are ameliorated by high levels of physical activity in adulthood
Getting a consistent seven- to nine-hours of sleep each night is the single most effective thing each of us can do for our health and wellbeing.
Matthew Walker, writing for The Guardian:
Related is the association between plentiful slumber and athletic performance. Sleep is perhaps the greatest legal performance-enhancing “drug” that few people are taking advantage of. Obtain less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens: time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30%, as does aerobic output; limb extension force and vertical jump height are reduced; peak and sustained muscle strength decrease. Add to this the cardiac, metabolic and respiratory effects: higher rates of lactic acid buildup and reductions in blood oxygen saturation with converse increases in carbon dioxide, due in part to a reduction in the amount of air that the lungs can expire in a sleep-deficient state. And then there is injury risk. Relative to sleeping nine hours a night, sleeping five to six hours a night will increase your chances of injury across a season by more than 200%.
Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night also compromises your immune system, significantly increasing your risk of cancer. So much so, that recently the World Health Organization classified any form of night-time shiftwork as a probable carcinogen.
Inadequate sleep – even moderate reductions of two to three hours for just one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path towards cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.
All it takes is one hour of lost sleep, as demonstrated by a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people across more than 60 countries twice a year, otherwise known as daylight saving times. In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, we gain an hour of sleep opportunity, and there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks.