If watching a 92 year old woman finish a marathon this past May was not inspiration enough the Senior Olympics were a guarantee to ignite the fire within and encourage you to get out and get moving. A recent study of participants in the Senior Olympics, also known at the National Senior Games, found that the athletes’ fitness ages are typically 20 years or more younger than their chronological age. The Senior Olympics, which took place on July 3 in Minnesota, hosts athletes ranging from 50-100 years old who will compete in a variety of sports, from track and field and swimming to pickleball and judo.
Fitness age is a concept developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who took note of epidemiological data showing that people with above-average cardiovascular fitness generally have longer life spans than people with lower aerobic fitness. The researchers took this a step further when they tested the fitness and health of more than 5,000 Norwegian adults and used the data to design a complex algorithm that is capable of calculating someone’s aerobic capacity and relative fitness age based on his or her sex, waist size, exercise routine, and resting heart rate. Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and board member of the foundation that runs the Senior Olympics, took note of this work and reached out to Dr. Ulrik Wisloff, the led scientist for fitness age, and suggested that together they study a particular group of adults, such as the participants in this year’s Senior Olympics.
With over 4,200 responses from this year’s qualifiers, Dr. Peeke and Dr. Wisloff were able to see how the athletes’ active and healthy lifestyle’s affect their biological age. Impressive results showed similar affects for both male and female athletes with the average chronicle age being 68 and the average fitness age being a remarkable 43, 25 years less.
It has not been determined whether athletes in certain sports benefit more than those participating in less-vigorous sports but Doctor’s Peeke and Wisloff hope to answer that question as well as others in the near future, as they continue with their research. However, the overall takeaway message from this data should be heartening and motivate people of all ages to get active and keep moving.
While many of the competing athletes did not begin training until later in life, they show that regular exercise and training can do a world of good for the body as we continue to age. Despite where you are currently, it is never too late and your body will thank you.
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