Closing the fitness gap

What has fitness got to do with me?   Well, there are two answers to that.   Firstly, physical activity is a good antidote to depression and it increases the probability that you will feel well in the short term (as well as making your muscles and heart work better).  However, getting more active is also an insurance programme for the long term. This insures you against the risk of becoming incontinent, dependent on other people, and becoming a burden to your nearest and dearest – possibly the biggest fear of all!

The good news is that your level of fitness, and therefore your level of ability, can be improved at any age.   We have not been able to find research in which people aged 100 or older have been given exercises to do to measure the effects of training centenarians.   One reason for this is that when surveys have been done on people aged 100, one of the things they say about how they have managed to reach that age is that they have kept themselves active.

There are, however, some studies of people in their nineties and very many studies of people in their eighties, seventies and sixties, all of which have the same very encouraging message – whatever your age, you can get fitter and increase and improve your level of ability, as shown in the figure below.

The scientific evidence about the benefits of training is very strong, and has been for decades.  Twenty years ago Professor Roy J Shephard published his 487-page classic book on “Ageing, Physical Activity, and Health.”  His bottom line is clear and unequivocal – by becoming more active “biological age is effectively reduced by as much as 10 to 20 years”

There are four aspects to fitness all of which can be improved

  1. Stamina, how long you can keep going
  2. Skill, how well you can co-ordinate your actions, for example when recovering from a trip
  3. Suppleness, the opposite of stiffness
  4. Strength, what your muscles can do, and power, how quickly they can do it

Keeping fit and getting fitter are high priorities and the new message from research is that getting fitter may be even more important for people with one or more than one disease or condition than it is for people who have managed to avoid developing any condition.

Getting fitter is both a means of prevention and a type of treatment.

Reproduced from Sod Sitting, Get Moving!: Getting Active in Your 60s, 70s and Beyond Hardcover – 9 Mar. 2017 by Sir Muir Gray (Author), Diana Moran  (Author), David Mostyn (Illustrator)To buy a copy click here