Exercise and the Elderly …

The theme of late has been resumption of exercise in an older dude who was recently sedentary. As always I have a need to know that drives me to the books or the internet. It’s easy to find material on getting older people out walking eg <This paper> that details a beneficial impact on the frontal cortex or strength training as in<This one>. Clearly the training effect occurs in older folk just as it does in the young.

When it comes to cycling it is hard to find papers that deal with sedentary older people taking up a cycling regime. Research has focused on comparisons of masters athletes with those at peak performance or with the inactive. The bad news is that performance declines after a certain age. VO2max, the highest rate that we can use up oxygen as we burn our fuel, declines largely because our maximum heart rate declines. Muscle mass is reduced (sarcopenia) and body fat tends to go up. The good news is that these effects are less in those who continue to train. <See here> and <Here> or you can take my word for it!

The battle with age is fought and won. I say won because we are the survivors. The decline in performance is just one of the battle scars. The choice now is between this you or a fitter you. Go for it.

Are you fit enough to get fit? That is a discussion you should definitely have with your doctor. There may be some preparation to do first. Certainly, if you can’t lift your bike off the ground don’t get on it!

Which activity?

Here are some recommendations based on my reading and own experience.

I think cycling is an excellent choice. It’s far lower impact than running but like running can start right outside your front door. The amount of exertion is infinitely variable because you are in charge of the distance and the speed.

I wouldn’t buy a bike right off the bat. I would see if you can’t rent an eBike for a month. The big advantage to that is hills and headwinds can knock the enthusiasm right out of you. You don’t need that. When your speed drops below say 10 km/hr up the level of assistance until the going gets easier then drop it back. Try and ride five times a week, work slowly up to about an hour and then endeavour to get a little further in that time. Never bust a gut. Today’s exercise will do you no good if it prevents you getting out again tomorrow.

Ride somewhere safe. Wear a helmet. Carry your mobile phone.

Towards the end of the month try riding without the motor.

The improvement in the first month is terrific. It’s time to make some decisions. If you got on well without the motor consider a good old fashioned bike. It will be much lighter than an eBike, the transition will not be too hard. If you ride with a partner and can’t keep up or headwinds and hills will spoil your rides get an eBike. There is no shame in riding an eBike you can still put in a big effort and get great benefits.

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