I love cycling: The challenge, the adventure, the sense of freedom and accomplishment.
Little did I know, all the way back in 1990, when I began cycling, that it would boost the T cells in my immune system and give me the muscles of a much-younger person. Cycling is like the fountain of youth … on wheels.
Then again, deep down, at the cellular level, maybe my body knew all this scientific stuff and passed along endless DNA strands filled with subliminal messages to my brain that encouraged me to ride, ride and ride some more. Riding is addictive, maybe this is why.
So, a couple of recent studies from British scientists have shown that cycling is chock full of healthy benefits that slow down the aging process. For example, the first study concluded the “the relationship between human aging and physiological function is highly individualistic and modified by inactivity.”
What this means is: Inactivity (you know, couch-potato tendencies) is bad. Very, very bad. And activity is very, very good.
The study looked at 125 British long-time cyclists (84 men and 41 women) who were 55 to 79 and rode 400 or more miles a month. Here’s what they found, according to a New York Times article: “The cyclists proved to have reflexes, memories, balance and metabolic profiles that more closely resembled those of 30-year-olds than of the sedentary older group.”
OK, that’s just one test. For the science to be real, it has to be duplicated in subsequent tests.
Test number two biopsied muscle tissue from the same 125 cyclists and found: “…that there is little evidence of age-related changes in the properties of VL muscle across the age range studied. By contrast, some of these muscle characteristics were correlated with in vivo physiological indices.”
I know: Why can’t scientists write in simple English?
What they mean is: The older cyclists they studied had muscles that were larger, stronger and more supple than older people who were physically inactive. The muscles of the older cyclists were like those of 30-year-olds.
And, the cyclists led much happier lives than the non-cyclists!
I made up this last part. It wasn’t in the studies. But, based on my own studies of hundreds of cyclists over the past couple of decades, I’m pretty sure this is true. Any day that includes a bike ride is a good day, is something pretty much all cyclists think. And say.
Another study drew blood from the older cyclists and found that their thymus glands produced more T cells than inactive people of a similar age. I know from my work at the James Cancer Hospital that T cells are one of the immune system’s most powerful weapons. They detect foreign bodies in the body, flock to them and wipe them out. The more T cells you have, the healthier your immune system will be. The older British cyclists had similar numbers of T cells as people a heck of a lot younger.
Check out this video from one of the scientists who did the studies. Not sure if she’s a cyclist, but she knows what she’s talking about.
So, in conclusion: Ride more if you already ride; start riding if you don’t already ride.