The body’s ability to take in and use oxygen, the VO2 maximum capacity, is considered
the gold standard for measuring cardiorespiratory fitness. Higher VO2 correlates
well with biological age, as indicated by telomere length. A study found that
sedentary older study subjects had 40% shorter telomeres than those from either
sedentary or physically active young study subjects. In one study, compared to
older sedentary people, telomere length only decreased by 10% in older runners.
This study, and many others, indicate that exercise and fitness have an anti-aging
effect at the molecular level. A study measured the muscle enzymes and capillaries
of fit life-long exercisers who were in their 70s. It found that the exerciser’s
muscles were similar to those of people 30 years younger. Studies of resistance
training have found that cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke were
substantially lower among those who lifted weights, even if the workouts were occasional.
If cardiovascular fitness correlates with health and longer life, it may be useful
for individuals to determine their fitness age, and then implement proven ways to
improve fitness. To assess fitness age without access to an exercise laboratory,
scientists tested more than 5,000 Norwegian adults and devised an algorithm for a
non-exercise test of fitness (NET-T) to calculate aerobic capacity based on a person’s
sex and measurement of resting heart rate, waist size, and exercise routine.
The test can be found at: https://www.worldfitnesslevel.org/#/.
In a study of more than 55,000 Norwegian adults using the non-exercise test, good
cardiorespiratory fitness was associated with decreased all-cause and CVD mortality
in men and women below 60 years of age. Another study of 4,200 Senior
Olympics qualifiers age 50 to 100 that used the non-exercise test methodology
found that “While the athletes’ average chronological age was 68, their average
fitness age was 43, a remarkable 25 years less.”
A similar study examined the association of the validated fitness algorithm with
all-cause and CVD mortality among 32,319 adults aged 35-70 years who took part
in eight health surveys for England and Scotland between 1994 and 2003. After
adjusting for potential confounders, including diabetes, hypertension, smoking, social
class, alcohol, and depression, a higher fitness score according to the fitness
algorithm was associated with a lower risk of mortality from all-causes (15% lower
in men and 12% lower in women) and from CVDs (25% lower in men and 27%
lower in women).
Another study of highly active and fit older male and female cyclists age 55–
79 years found much variation in fitness between individuals of the same age, but
on average, that their physical functioning on a wide variety of measures, such
as balance, reflexes, metabolic markers, and memory, remained fairly stable—and
close to those found among 30 year-olds. Although some declines with age were
observed, including loss of muscle mass and strength and decreased maximal rate
of oxygen consumption (VO2max), the expected decline in many markers of aging
had not occurred. A follow-up study of the cyclists found that there was little loss
of muscle mass and strength in those who exercise regularly. The cyclist’s body
fat and cholesterol levels also did not increase with age, and the men’s testosterone
levels remained high. The T-cells in their immune systems, although showing signs
of senescence and being less robust, were more numerous than would have been
found in a sedentary population of similar age.
Another similar study was undertaken to determine if repeated exposure to ultra-
endurance aerobic exercise is beneficial or detrimental. The study found that
ultra-marathon athletes had 11% longer telomeres than healthy controls. The investigators
concluded that the magnitude of this difference translates into about 16
years difference in biological age and that regular engagement in ultra-endurance
aerobic exercise attenuates cellular aging. Studies of muscle biopsies carried out
at the Mayo Clinic found that exercise can reverse some of the deleterious changes
in muscle cells and improve their functioning. In contrast to even moderate activity,
sedentary behavior is a risk factor for the physical frailty that is a strong risk
factor for disability and death. A recent editorial in the JAMA noted that “Activity
may be the best treatment for aging.”
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.