Aging and Exercise

In a recent paper sport champions and athletes were asked what they thought it took to become a champion.  The group had a large sub-set of Olympians (medal winners and participants), world Champions, State and Regional Champions as well as a sub-set of “chronic” athletes that had, at the time of the survey, not earned a Championship.  The group had spent a significant portion of the lives competing and training.    This of course makes sense because achieving a sport level of performance to reach a major championship takes years of preparation.1

The group seemed in general especially bright mentally as noted by their responses to the survey.  This wasn’t too surprising because the mean of the group is 53.8 years with a range of 26 to 78 years of age.1Nevertheless; there was an air of vitality among these athletes.

The survey was not done face-to-face with the athletes.  However, a large percentage of the athletes were seen face-to-face as part of typical social interactions.  In addition, after the survey a number of the athletes felt compelled to discuss the work by phone.  At times one or more of them were present at different gatherings.  Among those surveyed there remained a competitive presence as well as a high degree of verbal and body language mild posturing that could be considered friendly yet slightly aggressive regardless of age. The overall impression a bystander might of noted is that these people appeared extremely healthy and engaged. Certainly, the group is physically fit regardless of age.

An important observation is the general health of the group.  At a mean age of nearly 54 they are generally not overweight.  A few are overweight.  An archer is obese (but currently on a strict diet to drop the weight), there’s an overweight ex-football lineman (thought not obese) and in that category there is a PGA golf pro, and one ex-major league pitcher who are heavier than during their playing days.  In general, the group was not overweight. This may be attributed to; overall the group continues to exercise to a large degree.

Coaching Tip

Exercise is a relatively easy why to remain in good health both mentally and physically. 2,3As we age we can hope to die young at a very old age. In that vein exercise can be an adjunct to prolonged health and mental compacity.4Aside from clearly obvious physical attributes associated with aging and exercise, exercise decreases the degradation of our brains.5

Being physically active isn’t the sole method to engage our brains as we age. One study showed that individuals who played chess were cognitively engaged and had better health than a control group.6The same study, which compared the chess players to master level track and field athletes, revealed the athletes had more injuries than the chess players.6For those injuries the athletes gained a lower prevalence of chronic disease.6However, the chess players and athletes had a lower incidence of chronic disease compared to a control group.6

As we age, exercise can be modified to account for slower recovery times.7, 8Even with modification exercise among the senior population can improve quality of life and independent living.9As a measure of successful aging, exercising among the older population may be a model to support concepts of best health over longer durations as exercise works to protect the body including the brain.10, 11

Through active engagement in sport and exercise we can prolong better physical health and mental health. This becomes clear to an observer in the presence of chronic athletes.11By adding a regime of exercise to activities of daily living we can improve our quality of life.9

References:

  1. Lain,D C; What it takes to be a Champion.In review, NFAA Publication, Archery, Nov. 2018
  2. Trapp, S:Master athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Dec;11 Suppl:S196-207.
  3. Zhao E,Tranovich MJDeAngelo RKontos APWright VJ: Phys Sportsmed. Chronic exercise preserves brain function in master athletes when compared to sedentary counterparts. 2016;44(1):8-13. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2016.1103641. Epub 2015 Oct 29.
  4. Geard D,Reaburn PRJ, Rebar AL, Dionigi RA.: Masters Athletes: Exemplars of Successful Aging. J Aging Phys Act. 2017 Jul;25(3):490-500. doi: 10.1123/japa.2016-0050. Epub 2017 Jun 28.
  5. Tseng BY1,Uh J, Rossetti HC, Cullum CM, Diaz-Arrastia RF, Levine BD, Lu H, Zhang R.: Masters athletes exhibit larger regional brain volume and better cognitive performance than sedentary older adults. J Magn Reson Imaging. 2013 Nov;38(5):1169-76. doi: 10.1002/jmri.24085. Epub 2013 Mar 21.
  6. Patelia S, Stone RC,El-Bakri R, Adli M,Baker J.: Masters or pawns? Examining injury and chronic disease in male Master Athletes and chess players compared to population norms from the Canadian Community Health Survery. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2018 Nov 30;15:15. doi: 10.1186/s11556-018-0204-z. eCollection 2018.
  7. Foster C, Wright G, Battista RA, Porcari JP. : Training in the aging athlete. Curr Sports Med Rep.2007 Jun;6(3):200-6.
  8. Soto-Quijano DA.: The Competitive Senior Athlete. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am.2017 Nov;28(4):767-776. doi: 10.1016/j.pmr.2017.06.009.
  9. Spirduso WW1,Cronin DL.: Exercise dose-response effects on quality of life and independent living in older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Jun;33(6 Suppl):S598-608; discussion S609-10.
  10. Geard D, Rebar AL, Reaburn P, Dionigi RA.: Testing a Model of Succesfult Again in a Cohart of Masters Swimmers. J Aging Phys Act.2018 Apr 1;26(2):183-193. doi: 10.1123/japa.2016-0357. Epub 2018 Mar 24.
  11. Tseng BY,Gundapuneedi T,Khan MA, Diaz-Arrastia R, Levine BD, Lu H, Huang H, Zhang R.: White matter integrity in physically fit older adults. Neuroimage. 2013 Nov 15;82:510-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.06.011. Epub 2013 Jun 12.

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