I have to ‘fess up’ right up front, I am not at all independent in this discussion, I love cycling. Though having injured myself a short while ago I have not been able to get on two wheels as much as I would have liked over the past few months. Thank goodness, though I am able to start-up again. Especially as the weather has turned for the better.
So, given my lack of impartiality on the subject, I was really pleased to come across some research from Birmingham University and King’s College, London, in Aging Cell. The team followed a group of 125 cyclists, some of whom are now in their 80s, and their findings were pretty illuminating. First, they found that they had immune systems worthy of a 20-year-old, but not only that there were additional benefits ranging from our muscles to the mind.
Talking to the BBC, Professor Janet Lord, co-author of the research, said: “The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.”
What they found was that these long-distance cyclists, were producing T-cells at the same rate as people in their 20’s. Important because T-cells help our bodies respond to and fight off new infections. Not only that they also help us respond better to vaccines. So given today’s Covid climate even more reason to get on our bikes. All remarkably interesting when compared to an inactive group of older people where they found that they were producing relatively few of these T-cells.
Fear not, as I hear the brain cogs whirr and gnashing of teeth commence, we don’t all have to be as active as endurance cyclists, all of us would still gain from undertaking regular exercise that gets us a little out of breath.
So, how much exercise is the right amount? Both the NHS and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest older adults (over 65’s) should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate (75 minutes of vigorous) aerobic activity per week and strength exercises should be performed at least twice per week. That’s just over 20 minutes per day, by no means a huge amount but it is recommended that it should be performed in blocks of at least 10 minutes.
So as Norman Tebbit once said, though for very different reasons – and we won’t go there, it’s time to “get on your bike.” Not only that it is a very sociable activity and gets us out enjoying the sunshine (or rain).