Just before Christmas we arranged our 6th seminar on Exercise in Medicine in Trondheim. Over 100 scientists were gatered to present and discuss existing and future research projects within exercise in medicine. We want to thank all our guests for coming all the way to Trondheim to participate in the seminar. We had some interesting and inspiring days, and are looking forward to future collaborations.
How is our lifestyle influenced by our spouse’s lifestyle changes? Effects of smoking and alcohol consumption have been examined in this regard but few studies have assessed this relationship when it comes to physical activity. A recent study in The American Journal of Epidemiology has done just that.
The study included more than 3,000 married couples aged 45-64 years. Participants were examined twice, at baseline and after 6 years. Physical activity was assessed using questions about the frequency, duration and intensity of sports/exercise and leisure activities.
The biological level ageing results from the impact of the accumulation of a wide variety of molecular and cellular damage over time. But these changes are neither linear nor consistent, and they are only loosely associated with a person’s age in years. There is no ‘typical’ older person and some 80 year-olds have physical and mental capacities similar to many 20 year-olds.
However, as we grow older our bodies are changing. We may grow a little rounder around the waistline, or wake in the night, or feel a little stiffer in the morning. Most of us have to start to use glasses, and slowly our hear turns grey. Some even loose it. As we grow older increased forgetfulness that not is impairing our daily life is considered to be a part of the normal aging process. Generally, information processing also slows as we grow older, and older people have more trouble multitasking. However, research find that problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, also called cognitive impairment may increase the risk of later progressing to dementia. Still, some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.
Through our research supervisor, Dr. Greg Wells at the University of Toronto, we were offered an amazing opportunity to read and disseminate knowledge on high intensity exercise to the general public – specifically for those entering middle or old age. We write for Virginia Davies, a retired lawyer who has developed a passion for high intensity exercise. Her website, ‘Fast Twitch Grandma’ is aimed to spark conversation about the importance of training and high intensity exercise in the aging population. She sent us across the pond to meet some of the leading researchers in the field in order to pick their brains, find out what they are doing, and discuss where they see the research going in the coming years.
In the animal kingdom there is an interesting inverse relation between heart rate and life expectancy. For a 177 years old Galapagos tortoise with a heart rate of 6 beats/min, the 2 years lifespan with 450 beats/min of a mouse is just a blink of an eye. In general, there is a “rule”: the faster the heart rate the shorter the lifespan. The immediate consequence of this “rule” is that the total number of heartbeats in a lifetime is approximately constant and equal in most of the animal species. The only exception is … humans! According to “the rule” we should live no longer than 30 years, which actually was our life expectancy back in the days. We thank ourselves and the progress we have made in medical science for living almost 3 times longer than we should. In reality, what I have called “rule” is a gross approximation. Multiple factors that affect the basal metabolic rate have to be considered since they in turn affect the heart rate. For instance, hibernation extends life expectancy in mammals.
Most people know that exercise is good for their physical health, but not everyone knows that it also has beneficial effects for cognitive functions and mental health. Cognitive performance decreases with old age, and a growing elderly population increases the amount of people that will get diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, mood related disorders are a major worldwide problem. Exercise can improve the lives of people who are at the risk of developing these brain-associated disorders.
Exercise can increase your memory
A study performed on elderly people showed that increased physical activity resulted in an enhanced memory performance. It did not matter if the increased activity came from organized training sessions or from routines embedded into the daily life such as walking to the supermarket, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and generally move around more in the house. One of the symptoms of diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s is impaired memory, and regular aerobic exercise is therefore recommended to prevent or delay the onset of these diseases.
Tiredness or fatigue is one of the most commonly reported symptoms in primary care. There are many different types of fatigue. For example, people may experience fatigue if they cannot sleep well or if they exercise intensively. But there are a lot of older people that feel fatigued all day every day for no apparent reason. This can be distressing and may reduce their quality of life. We don’t currently know a great deal about this problem. For example, we don’t know how daily physical activity levels are related to these experiences of fatigue. On one hand, people who are more active might be more likely to feel tired. But on the other hand, people who experience unrelenting fatigue may be forced to be less active. I am a post-doctoral research fellow working in the Geriatrics, Movement and Stroke (GeMS) group at NTNU, and through collaboration with CERG and the Generation 100 study, I was able to try and find out a bit more about fatigue.