People are now living longer lives, thanks in part to research regarding health, fitness and vitality. People are learning how to take better care of themselves and their bodies while living healthier, more active lifestyles. In fact, research has shown that people in their 50s may actually be healthier than their 20-year-old counterparts. Many elderly people, some considered to be “over the hill,” can still do many physical activities and exercises as younger people. The only difference lies in the intensity, duration and type of exercise performed.
Why are Older People Becoming Healthier?
The main reason for the longer lifespan and increased physical stamina lies in lifestyle changes. Doctors are noticing that more people are quitting smoking and researching ways to eat better and exercise more regularly. In this day and age, people in general are retiring later, keeping up with hobbies and activities they love, and are staying more active longer. Even people who are in their 80s are still working, many of whom take regular walks or play moderately challenging sports. According to Hal Hockfield, M.D., if an individual lives to be 70 years old today, he will most likely live to be at least 85 years old.
Older People Have More Information
With the increased amount of research regarding health and fitness for people of all ages comes a wealth of information that we did not have 30 or 40 years ago. People are better educated about health issues and literature is readily available. In other words, people are not only living longer, but also living better and smarter.
The type of exercise that a 50-year-old performs may differ significantly from, say, a 20-year-old. For example, an individual may be able to partake in mild water aerobics or walk around a pool – exercises that can help weary joints tremendously. Numerous 50-year-olds also have home gyms and personal trainers to help them focus on the proper exercises for their age. Tennis and dance are also favorites of elderly people, notes Joanne Sgro, a personal trainer. Because these people are well-educated and typically have a higher socio-economic status, they have more time to devote to taking care of themselves.
Roughly 20 to 25 years ago, there was a significant amount of pressure on 50-year-olds. They would cope with mid-life crises and aging parents, and many believed that once old age hit, that was it and their life would slowly decline from that point. Now, because there no longer appears to be a “wall” at age 50, people are realizing that they can still be in great health and continue to do all the activities they loved when they were younger. Parents are living longer as well, so people in their 50s have more time to come to terms with aging with respect to family. The mid-life crisis was viewed as a way of acting out, of not wanting to come to terms with the fact that an individual was aging. Now, because people are continuing to stay physically fit, fewer people are reporting having experienced a mid-life crisis. They have more control over their lives and they are able to enjoy their healthy and active lifestyle longer.
Is There Scientific Proof of This Phenomenon?
A research conducted by the K.G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology concluded that activity is more important than age when it comes to determining fitness levels. The study showed that individuals who increase the intensity of their exercises lower their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, risk factors that can predispose people to developing Type 2 diabetes, heart problems and stroke. Researchers agree that the intensity of the exercise is more important than how long the exercise is performed, particularly in terms of peak oxygen uptake.
Researchers took information from over 4600 healthy men and women to examine fitness levels in adults. The researchers then gave laboratory tests to the participants to test their peak oxygen update, also known as VO2peak, one of the best, most objective ways to measure overall fitness. The data confirmed what researchers had thought: just because a person is young does not necessarily mean that he is in better physical shape than someone is who is decades older than him. The data also showed that individuals who were least fit had the worst results concerning high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart health.
A study conducted back in 1965 shocked researchers. They took five 20-year-olds and put them on bed rest for three weeks, then analyzed their VO2 Max levels. Scientists concluded that their maximum oxygen update levels dropped 27 percent. However, 30 years later when the patients were studied again, they not only gained weight, but their peak oxygen uptake levels had only dropped 11 percent – significantly less than the rate taken three decades prior.