The whole science of aging is VERY complex, but here’s a hopeful note.
Robert VB sent me this interesting link Of Mice and Men: The Aging Athlete and Cycling Performance, which details how fitness and aging are related.
In early 2010, TJ LaRocca from the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, Boulder released the results of a study that clearly showed that “the fitter a person was in middle age or onward, the younger their cells.”
Specifically, he compared the length of cell telomeres (tiny caps on the end of DNA strands, the length of which have been shown to be a reliable marker of cell age) of young athletes and aging athletes (distance runners) with those of their sedentary peers. LaRocca’s work showed not only that the aging athletes had longer telomere length than their sedentary counterparts, but also that higher VO2max correlated closely with longer telomeres.
Similarly, the New York Times recently reported on new research by Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, that showed that “exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.”
This dovetails exactly with how I feel when I stay in shape at late middle age (which proves nothing of course, but I don’t need a study to know that I feel healthy and strong when I stay active).
So get out there and ride. Or run or hike or whatever!