[IPk] Vigorous Walking May Slow Biological Aging to a Crawl
TORONTO, April 10 -- Vigorous walking for about an hour a day five times a week
can chop a dozen years off the biological age of persons 64 and older,
to a researcher here.
A review of recent studies in patients age 64 and older showed that such a
regimen can boost maximal oxygen intake by about 25% within three months,
effectively decreasing biological age by about 12 years, Roy Shephard, M.D.,
Ph.D., of the University of Toronto, reported online in the British Journal of
This could also extend a patient's functional independence -- which is likely
lost when maximal oxygen intake drops below 18 mL/kg/min for men and 15
mL/kg/min for women -- by about the same amount of time, he said. Action Points
Explain to interested patients that this review of recent literature found that
maintaining or increasing aerobic fitness may slow biological aging and
independence in older age.
The benefits of aerobic exercise increase the longer it is performed, he said.
"There remains a need to clarify the importance of deteriorations in fitness
relative to other potential causes of dependency," he wrote, "but, from the
practical viewpoint, regular aerobic activity can address many of the issues of
both functional loss and chronic disease."
Past studies by Dr. Shephard suggested that keeping up aerobic fitness could
stem the onset of dependency in older patients by maintaining functional
A program of endurance training could offset the expected loss of 5 mL/kg/min
maximal oxygen intake per decade, which equates to about 10 years of biological
age, he said.
To assess the current state of knowledge on the subject, Dr. Shephard reviewed
30 studies published since 1990.
There was some uncertainty in the findings about the rate of decline of maximal
oxygen intake in older patients.
The use of different study designs -- longitudinal or cross-sectional -- and
fact that most data were collected from relatively healthy participants made it
difficult to compare the data.
"There is thus some inter-observer disagreement on the rate of deterioration
during the retirement years," he wrote, "but is seems reasonable to postulate
that a loss of at least 4 to 5 mL/kg/min per decade continues into advanced old
As maximal oxygen intake dropped through the years, the amount of activity a
patient could participate in without becoming fatigued declined until
independence was lost.
In one cross-sectional study, researchers found that the risk for dependency
increased by 14% for each 1 mL/kg/min loss in maximal oxygen intake in patients
ages 55 to 86.
However, Dr. Shephard wrote, it remains difficult to determine how much of the
risk of dependency comes from a reduction of aerobic fitness because, in most
studies, few of the participants beginning a trial complete it, and those that
do are generally more healthy.
The studies reviewed showed a trend toward greater gains in aerobic fitness
a longer training regimen. Average gains were 12.9% in an eight- to 10-week
program, 14.1% in a 12- to 18-week program, and 16.9% with 24 to 52 weeks of
Those studies that used a high-intensity regimen reached the gains of 25%,
equals an increase in maximal oxygen intake of 6 mL/kg/min or a decrease of
about 12 years of biological age.
Dr. Shephard noted that aerobic fitness may indirectly delay dependency by
preventing other conditions that are likely to diminish functional capacity,
including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, some
forms of cancer, and osteoporosis.
Exercise also hastens recovery from injuries and any additional muscle power
prevent falls, he said.
"There seems good evidence that the conservation of maximal oxygen intake
increases the likelihood that the healthy elderly person will retain functional
independence," he said.
After completing the review, Dr. Shephard said that there is still missing
information on how much aerobic fitness contributes to continuing independence
in older patients.
He said that further research needs to focus on which services or changes in
home can postpone institutionalization in a cost-effective manner.
Dr. Shephard declared no competing interests.
Primary source: British Journal of Sports Medicine
Shephard R, "Maximal oxygen intake and independence in old age" Br J Sports Med
2008; DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.044800.
Jackie Jacombs, mum of Sasha aged 13, diagnosed with diabetes in 1999 at the
of 4 years. Now using Paradigm 712 pump. Attends Gloucester Royal Hospital
where there are about 18 children on pumps, Sasha has an identical twin sister
Rebecca, both twins have coeliac, I have two older girls, Nicki and Danni,
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