Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cheating Father Time: 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger, but exercise is key

Date:
October 11, 2011
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
Who is likely to be fitter: a lazy 20-year-old or an active 50-year-old? New research from Norway provides statistical evidence that the 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger. But exercise – how much, and how intense – is the key, say researchers.

New research shows that age need not be a limiting factor in improving cardiovascular fitness. You can cheat Father Time if you work out regularly and with high intensity intervals -- and in so doing, improve your overall health.
Credit: NTNU Info/Tor Monsen

Who is likely to be fitter: a lazy 20-year-old or an active 50-year-old? New research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine provides statistical evidence that the 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger. But exercise -- how much, and how intense -- is the key, say K.G. Jebsen Center researchers.

Middle-aged exercise buffs who might be discouraged by the effects of aging on their overall fitness can take heart in research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine. Activity is far more important than age in determining fitness levels -- and an active 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as a sedentary 20-year-old, says Ulrik Wisloff, Jebsen Center director and principle investigator of the study.

The study shows that by increasing the intensity of your exercise, you can beat back the risk of metabolic syndrome, the troublesome set of risk factors that can predispose people to type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular problems.

"Physical condition is the most important factor in describing an individual's overall health, almost like a report card," says Stian Thoresen Aspenes, who was recently awarded his PhD by NTNU for his research conducted at the K.G. Jebsen Center.

Largest fitness database in the world

Aspenes' thesis, "Peak Oxygen Uptake Among Healthy Adults: Cross-sectional descriptions and prospective analyses of peak oxygen uptake, physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy adults (20-90 years)" used information from 4631 healthy men and women from Norway's biggest health database, the Nord Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) to examine fitness in adults from all age classes.

HUNT participants underwent laboratory tests in 2007-2008 to check their peak oxygen uptake, called VO2peak, which is used as a measure of overall fitness. This collection of information represents the largest database in the world of objectively measured VO2peak in healthy men and women aged 20-90 years old.

The detailed information from the database enables researchers to compare measures of fitness with cardiovascular risk factors and other assessments of overall health, giving them the statistical power to confirm what previous studies have suggested -- that youth isn't everything when it comes to being fit. Their data also show how those who were least fit also had the worst measures of cardiovascular health, such as higher blood pressures and higher cholesterol levels.

Age and fitness

The underpinnings of the K.G. Jebsen Center's research go back in time and far away in place, to Dallas in 1965, when researchers selected five healthy 20-year-olds to spend three weeks in bed, for what has become one of the most famous fitness studies of all, the Dallas Bed Rest and Training Study. Predictably, the five 20-year-olds lost fitness after their three weeks of bed rest -- with their measure of maximum oxygen uptake, VO2 Max, dropping by a whopping 27 percent. But it was what happened 30 years later, when researchers followed up on the study and retested these same men, which delivered the biggest surprise.

Time had not been so charitable to these men. On average, they had gained 23 kg, and their body fat percentage had doubled -- so they were far from fit. But when researchers tested their peak oxygen uptake, it had dropped by only 11 percent as compared to their 20-year-old healthy selves.

Intensity more important than duration

Research from the K.G. Jebsen Center goes well beyond the Dallas findings, and shows that fit 50-year olds can be as fit as 20-year olds who don't exercise much. But exercise -- how much, and how intense -- is the key to maintaining this fitness. When the Jebsen Center researchers looked at the importance of the intensity of exercise versus the duration, intensity was far more important than duration in determining peak oxygen uptake.

They have also looked at the benefits of high intensity exercise in the form of interval training -- where four or more short periods (typically 4 minutes) of very high intensity exercise are followed by a similar number of short periods of lower intensity exercise. This approach, called 4x4 interval training, is a quick way to increase your overall fitness, research from the Jebsen Center has confirmed.

Cardiovascular risks

Exercise buffs will naturally be interested in the Jebsen Center's research, but their findings apply to anyone who wants to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

For example, the researchers found that women whose fitness values were below the median VO2peak (<35.1 mL kg-1 min-1) were five times more likely to have a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared to those in the highest quartile of VO2peak (40.8 mL kg-1 min-1).

For men below the median (<44.2 mL kg-1 min-1), the risk was even higher -- they were fully eight times more likely to have a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared to those in the highest quartile of VO2peak (50.5 mL kg- 1 min-1). Even small differences in VO2peak were found to be associated with worsening cardiovascular risk profiles.

Keeping active is critical

The center's research shows that maintaining some level of physical activity is important. The benefit from having been active when young is small if you are inactive now. "Even if you were highly active at a young age, you have to keep being active to get the health benefits from it," says Professor Wisloff.

So how do K.G. Jebsen Center researchers stay fit, given all that they know? Many incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Aspenes -- a 33-year-old father of three, with a full time job now at the Norwegian Directorate of Health -- is lucky because he can ride his bicycle to and from work, which in hilly Trondheim, means that at least part of the ride is up some pretty steep hills. That's an advantage for interval training, he says, because "I ride like hell up the hills."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stian Thoresen Aspenes, Tom Ivar Lund Nilsen, Eli-Anne Skaug, Gro F. Bertheussen, Øyvind Ellingsen, Lars Vatten, Ulrik Wisløff. Peak Oxygen Uptake and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in 4631 Healthy Women and Men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2011; 43 (8): 1465 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31820ca81c

Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Cheating Father Time: 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger, but exercise is key." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011074635.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2011, October 11). Cheating Father Time: 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger, but exercise is key. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011074635.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Cheating Father Time: 50-year-old can be every bit as fit as someone 30 years younger, but exercise is key." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011074635.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins