Ageing is many peoples greatest fear because many believe that to age is to wane, that life doesn’t get any better but I for one haven’t seen that to be true. Working in a gym gave me an excellent insight because I saw people from all walks of life and in all stages. What I like to remind myself every so often is that the healthiest and fittest people there, and particularly the happiest were sometimes the eldest.
Now don’t get me wrong, age is a big challenge and putting the miles on the clock is going to add some wear and tear but I do like to see the body and mind just like a car. The question being, what kind of miles are you putting on and how do you drive?
In the same way that driving aggressively can cause your car to wear out sooner or by simply not maintaining it properly the body ages badly when not cared for. The fact is that working in the gym I met many people who didn’t just look younger than they were they lived younger too. I got the chance to get to know them personally and get an insight into whether their good health was luck and genetics or whether they themselves had a greater part to play.
The answer I found is that just like with a car it is luck the exact version you are given but the greatest impact on how you age is in how you take care of what you have. For example one of the ladies I knew is an inspiration to this day because I thought she was 60 and doing well for her age. To make conversation I asked her what she was training for to which she replied she was going on a skiing holiday in a few weeks. Skiing is in my eyes on of the most intense activities there is so you have to be pretty darn fit even to do it let alone be any good. This lady was treating it like a normal thing and I thought how great it is to be able to do something this intense as a normal activity at 60. Good for her, I thought, just think of all the other cool things she must be able to do that many of her age can’t like run around with her children because unfortunately even climbing stairs is a challenge for many at that age.
Because I worked in a gym I knew people ages because it’s part of prescribing the right activities and such so I had a quick check and found she was in fact 80. Yep you read that right, an 80 year old grandma thought nothing of popping across to the alps for a bit of skiing. Now that is a woman to be inspired by isn’t it. So the question is Was this exceptional health down to luck and genes. Not really because when I put the question to her she said she was always active through her life and didn’t want to let herself go. Her attitude determined her health, not her genes.
Maybe this is a lucky find but she was not the only person at this gym who had the same result. Several people I found were experiencing health 20 years younger than their nominal age. The pattern I found was that they all had the same attitude that they must use their body or lose it so they chose to maintain it well. The fact is that the body doesn’t just need a yearly check up but a more regular one a few times a week. In fact that’s what cars are like because they still need to be used regularly, often every day, in order to function properly. In fact most cars need to be given a decent run regularly enough to keep themselves working properly.
These insights didn’t just apply in the gym I worked in. When I look wider I find the same story every where. Being older can and should mean the same health and happiness you knew when you were younger. To those who maintain their body properly this is invariably the case.
The Neurobiology of Aging
I love how science changes as we learn more, and what once was said to be impossible is now being shown to be possible as this video from the 2016 Brain Awareness Video Contest shows, cognitive decline doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of ageing.
Just watching this video is like going back to my psychology A level. Something I really enjoyed. The beauty is simply in understanding the body as a whole. So many know a lot about the body but little about the mind. This is the same as knowing all about a computer but not the operating system it runs or a car but not the fuel and engine it uses. The knowledge is incomplete.
This particular topic on aging reminds us that the brain is there to be used as we age just as when we are young. There is no evidence that any decline is inevitable it is just that that is what normally happens. So all you really have to do is choose to use your brain as much when you age as when you are young. In fact, as far as I can learn from my seniors it is the experience you possess when you are older that enables you to out compete the younger fitter individuals. My plan is to keep my fitness while gaining the experience so I can have the best of both worlds when I am older.
So that is my personal experience so far and I wanted to see what the existing research has to say. For now though, as a working dad I have found plenty of fascinating insights but haven’t had the time to put them into an interesting story. I list them below so you can look through them.
- fitness and ageing: use it and you won’t lose it
- A complex systems approach to aging biology published in Nature July 2022
- brainfacts.org/thinking-sensing-and-behaving/aging a literal treasure trove of articles exploring the brain as it ages including
- Live longer with fewer calories? Key enzyme involved in the aging process is found
- Eradicating aging cells could prevent disease
- Aging, Functional Capacity and Eccentric Exercise Training. http://t.co/F1ofbzJ3vp
- New-onset sciatica tied to age, obesity, mental workload
- Why do humans deteriorate with age? It’s a biological puzzle
- Muscle mechanical function & muscle fiber morphology during short-term immobilization and subsequent retraining(Short experiment testing effects of age on immboilisation and recovery from immobilisation)
- Exercise, brain health, and ageing
- Stop muscles ageing: Scientists have learnt how to stop muscle ageing
- Exercise rejuvenates quiescent skeletal muscle stem cells in old mice through restoration of Cyclin D1: This study represents the large number of studies that demonstrate the benefit of voluntary exercise. This study in particular shows that voluntary exercise is a practicable intervention for old muscle stem cell rejuvenation with stem cell health being a key factor in general health and preventing ageing.
- Aging and age‐related diseases: from mechanisms to therapeutic strategies: An overview of the research on ageing and related therapies.
- The biological clean-ups that could combat age-related disease Autophagy is the natural process of the body cleaning up cells when they are not needed or go wrong. Many people theorise that encouraging this process will reduce the problems associated with ageing. I have seen lots of other research showing that exercise encourages the auotphagy process and ensures the trash compactors work well.
- Is muscle weakness the new smoking? Lack of strength has finally been recognised as a marker of ageing and one of accelerated ageing. So maintaining muscle strength is finally being linked to maintaining biological age.
- Early life experiences can affect gene activity more than half a lifetime later. The scientists were building on their previous research in which they found that fruit flies fed a high-sugar diet early in life lived shorter lives, even after their diets were improved in adulthood. Here, they uncover the mechanism likely explaining the finding. I should analyse this further if I get time as I have lots of questions about this paper and the topic in general.
- Maintaining Lifelong Intelligence, Focus, and Mental Agility Comes Down to the Rule of 3 Your brain naturally ‘rewires’ itself as you age. While genetics matter, considerable research shows the big three — diet, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle — can dramatically slow and even put off the effect of network consolidation and generalization..
- Hypermetabolism: An Unexpected Driver of Biological Aging: So much research shows how exercise normalises metabolism. This article shows the problems of poorly functioning metabolism
- Epigenetic and social factors both predict aging and health – but new research suggests one might be stronger
- Weak Muscles May Speed Up Aging for the first time, we have found strong evidence of a biological link between muscle weakness and actual acceleration in biological age
- Keeping stem cells clean and tidy is an integral step to promoting a long healthspan:
- In humanity’s ongoing quest for the elixir of life, the science keeps pointing to stem cells. Research increasingly shows that maintaining stem cell fitness promotes a long healthspan, and new findings show keeping stem cells clean and tidy is an integral step.
- A key to keeping stem cells happy is maintaining protein homeostasis. Previous work showed that stem cells, including HSCs, synthesize proteins much slower than other cell types, prioritizing quality over quantity. This helps them make fewer mistakes in the process, as misfolded proteins can become toxic to cells if allowed to build up.
- What is the ideal age to retire? Never, according to a neuroscientist
- Too much time spent with no purpose is associated with unhappiness
- Instead of retiring find meaningful work so as you age use your experience as an advantage.
- Clearing Out the Trash – Stem Cells’ Battle Against Aging
- Reduced Oxygen Intake Linked to Extended Lifespan: Researchers revealed a correlation between reduced oxygen intake, or ‘oxygen restriction,’ and extended lifespan in lab mice.
- Biological age is increased by stress and restored upon recovery
- Using DNA Methylation Profiling to Evaluate Biological Age and Longevity Interventions
- Molecular Damage in Aging
- This review describes the concept of molecular damage in ageing and discusses its diverse aspects from theoretical models to experimental approaches. Measurement of multiple types of damage enables studies of the role of damage in human ageing outcomes and lays a foundation for testing interventions to reduce the burden of molecular damage, opening new approaches to slowing ageing and reducing its consequences.
- Social Ties Boost Survival by 50 Percent A meta-study covering more than 300,000 participants across all ages reveals that adults get a 50 percent boost in longevity if they have a solid social network
- How intestinal viruses could help you live to be 100: A secret to a long, healthy life may lie in the diversity of gut viruses, which can supercharge bacterial metabolism and resist disease.
- 100 Year-Old Nutrition Professor: 7 Keys to A Long Life | Dr. John Scharffenberg. Amazing interview.
- The biology of ageing. A pretty summary of current research and understanding.
- For people who want a summary and an intro into the more details and research for those interested.
- Sets up the challenges that movement addresses along with healthy habits.
- Reverse ageing with autophagy: Autophagy is the break down of cells to be reused for the bodies normal processes. This process is key to removing malfunctioning cells essentially trimming any excess and ensuring only the best are maintained.
- Cell protein discovery points to healthier aging Just ageing and metabolism being linked. Maintain a good metabolism and you age well . “In conditions of stress, when mitochondrial DNA has been damaged, the ATSF-1 protein prioritizes repair which promotes cellular health and longevity,”
- The Blood of Exceptionally Long-Lived People Shows Key Differences those who made it to their hundredth birthday tended to have lower levels of glucose, creatinine and uric acid from their sixties onwards
I also found Dave Hughes @HughesDC_MCMP particularly useful
So, that is what I have so far. Please let me know what you think and what else you would like to know.