Dec 02, 2014 by Smart Blog
Jogging seems to have gone out of fashion lately, but for older people - in particular those aged over 65 - it may be a good idea to buck that trend and slip on those trainers once again. According to a recent study conducted in America, jogging can have unexpected benefits for older adults.
The study, which took place across two universities (Humboldt State University in California and the University of Colorado), studied two sets of adults over 65, those who both ran/jogged and those who walked for exercise. The researchers examined each group for age-related decline in walking ability; in other words, they assessed how much the age of the participants affected their ability to walk, and whether one group had greater difficulties with walking than the other. In terms of health indictors, this is important because health professionals often use a patient's ability to walk efficiently as a marker of their overall physical wellbeing.
The study subjects were asked to walk on a treadmill at three different speeds, while their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide outputs were measured.
The researchers seem to have been rather surprised by their own findings, which were striking. Not only was there a difference between those who walked and those who ran for exercise, but also this difference was quite marked. Those over-65s, who jogged for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, were considerably more efficient at walking than those who merely walked. The joggers showed lower rates of age-related decline in their walking ability, but perhaps most interestingly of all, the metabolic cost of walking to these joggers was found to be comparable to that of young people in their twenties.
The metabolic cost is an indication of how hard the body has to work to achieve something: the harder the person finds a physical task, the higher the metabolic cost. The lower the metabolic cost, the easier the patient is likely to find the task. Thus, in general, metabolic cost increases with age.
The scientists involved in this study are not entirely sure why jogging seems to be so much more helpful than walking in this context, but speculate that it could have something to do with cell mitochondria, which is the 'powerhouse' or 'battery pack' that makes cells efficient - or not. There is already evidence to suggest that people who take regular exercise build muscles that have more effective mitochondria than those of more sedentary people.
Elixir of Youth?
Therefore, it seems that jogging can help to maintain youth, at least in metabolic/ cellular efficiency terms, and the researchers involved in this study now plan to look at other forms of exercise, such as swimming and cycling, to see whether they also produce such effects.
However, before you reach for the shorts and the trainers, it is worth bearing in mind that running and jogging can have harmful effects. Damage to joints and effects on heart rate being just two of them - so it is always a good idea to have a chat with a doctor before undertaking any new exercise regime, and to make sure that you have the appropriate clothing and footwear required to minimise any risk to health.