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.
There are several large ongoing project in CERG and OptimEx is one of them. OptimEx is a large multicentre project financed by the European Union and researchers, engineers and technicians from several countries and institutions are involved. I am working with OptimEx as a PhD student and therefore I will give the readers of our blog a short version of what OptimEx is all about and why it is invested so much in the project.
As we already know, lifestyle diseases are a huge and increasing burden on the healthcare system. One of the lifestyle diseases that are continuing to grow is heart failure with preserved ejection fraction named HFpEF. HFpEF is one of two types of heart failure affecting more than 7 million Europeans and accounting for 50% of all heart failure cases.
The notion of prime time of life has been changing with the changing era. Some say that life begins at 40, or 60 is the new 50. Is there a way to figure out what is the best age to be? I try to summarize the writings of already published BBC article on this topic, published on 26th May 2015.
When we talk about physical fitness, mid 20s seems to be the best age for sprint running, shot put, javelin or other associated sports activities with a sharp decline after hitting 30s. Professional footballers have their prime time in sports in early 20 years of their life.
The Senior Olympics is a biennial competition for athletes over 50 and consist of a variety of sports, and for this year ́s Games, in and around Minneapolis-St. Paul, in Minnesota, nearly 10,000 men and women aged from 50 to 100 participate. The games begin on Friday 2nd of July. Senior Olympians are not professional athletes, but most train frequently, and tend to be more physically active than other people of the same chronological age.
CERGs Fitness Calculator has been extremely popular worldwide and the calculated Fitness Number was recently shown to be a robust predict of current and future health. CERG is now making the first catalogue of global fitness for “normal people” that could be used for a variety of purposes, especially to define large-scale public health policies. We have now fitness data from exactly 100 countries and on average about 1000 new users worldwide register their fitness and health data every day.
Also, we aim to study special groups such as the Senior Athletes. In collaboration with Dr. Pamela Peeke at The University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the National Senior Games we are now determining the health status and their Fitness Age. So far we have collected data on more than 5000 of the Senior Athletes before the Games starts, and expect to have data for most of the 10,000 participants within the upcoming week. As can be seen from the figure to the right, Fitness Age in both Senior Olympic men and women was about 25 years lower than their real age.
This is a massive difference! We had expected a big difference as these people have trained for years and are probably among the fittest in the world in their age groups. However we were surprised it was that big. As can be seen from the figure to the left their peak oxygen uptake (fitness number) is about 13 ml/kg/min higher compared with their healthy, normally active and age matched counterparts.
New York Times: Older Athletes Have a Striking Yong Fitness Age