It’s strange when a lot of attention is given something you’ve known since you were a kid. Turn off the TV. Go out and play! Yes, exercise is good for you.

I guess I’m guilty of the same sin, because I’m going to cite the results of a recent study on exercise. Research carried out on over 100 amateur cyclists between the ages of 55 and 80 found that cycling helped them preserve muscle mass and strength, even as they aged. They maintained healthy levels of fat and cholesterol. Testosterone levels in men remained high. The test results were outlined in two research papers in the journal Aging Cell.

Perhaps what mom did not tell you is that the auto-immune effects of cycling are quite positive. Benefits to the immune system are related to the thymus, a gland that makes immune cells known as T-cells. The thymus normally begins to atrophy at the age of 20, but the thymus in older cyclists were found to be producing as many T-cells as those of younger, more sedentary people. Dr. Janet Lord, a researcher at the Institute of Inflammation and Aging at the University of Birmingham, commented: “Hippocrates in 400BC said that exercise is man’s best medicine.” Sadly, his admonition has been lost over the years; we are an increasingly sedentary society.

The results of this study debunk the common assumption that aging automatically means we become frail. The study provides strong evidence that regular exercise is key to maintaining optimal health as we age. It was not the first to highlight the significant health benefits of bicycling. A paper published in the BMJ last year showed that regular cycling reduced the risk of death from all causes by more than 40%, and that of heart disease and heart disease and cancer by 45%.

This study focused solely on cycling. Other studies highlight similar benefits of regular exercise performed with certain intensity.  If you are lucky enough to still have your mom, say “thank you.”

Caring Corner

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About the Author:

Lorenzo Mejia and his wife, Mary Lynn Ryerson, are the owners of Acorn, a caregiver registry located in Chapel Hill.

They founded Acorn based on their experiences caring for his mom, who suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2013, he became a Qualified Dementia Care Specialist. In 2014, the Alzheimer’s Foundation named him the Dementia Care Professional of the Year in the United States.
Lorenzo is the founder of Dementia Friendly Orange County an effort to make local businesses more accommodating to people with dementia.

Lorenzo speaks often on dementia and the challenges associated with caring for loved ones. He has been interviewed by ABC News and National Public Radio. He is an advisor to Orange County’s OC-CARES Dementia Capable Community Project.