Is it possible to reverse—or at least arrest—the effects of aging? Since humans discovered the first wrinkle, they’ve searched for an answer, yet despite many anti-aging pills and potions, the fountain of youth has remained elusive.
Could it be we’ve been looking in all the wrong places? Rather than sitting on the shelves of your local pharmacy or featured in “as seen on TV” commercials, might the solution actually be stored in your garage?
The answer is yes. In fact, you may have used it today on your way to work. Cycling, it has been shown, could be the answer to prolonging your golden years.
The older we get, the frailer our bodies become, as our muscles tire from the wear and tear of everyday life. Cycling can slow this process considerably.
A recent study tested 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 against a group of adults who didn’t exercise on a regular basis. The findings showed that the cyclists maintained consistent levels of muscle mass and strength, and stable amounts of body fat and cholesterol, as they aged.
The results also indicated that in addition to lessening the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, the cyclists’ thymuses (the organ that produces disease-combating T cells but that diminishes after our teen years) were found to be still functioning as well as those of people much younger.
Of course, any form of exercise is good for the aging body, so why cycling in particular?
The answer seems to be that cyclists push their cardiovascular systems harder and therefore prevent the physical deterioration caused by inactivity—which is on the increase because of the sedentary, office-based work lives so many of us now lead.
If the physical health benefits of cycling aren’t enough to get your wheels spinning, a broad range of studies have also explored the benefits on riders’ mental health, with evidence suggesting those who cycle to work regularly are actually happier than those opting for other modes of transportation.
Including some thigh-burning pedaling to your weekly routine doesn’t necessarily require investment in your own bike, either. Bryce Hastings, Les Mills’ head of research, says, “Adding just two LES MILLS SPRINT workouts per week has been shown to increase VO2 [aerobic fitness] by around 10 percent, meaning not only are these workouts effective, but anyone can do them and feel like a pro right from the start.”
LES MILLS SPRINT is a form of high-intensity interval training, a proven way to improve fitness and lung, heart and circulatory health—all key to slowing the aging process.
So whether it’s a road bike and the wind in your hair on the way to work or a hardcore cycling workout in a cycle studio at the gym, you can be sure you’re not just keeping fit, but you’re also pedaling back the years.
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This post originally appeared on LesMills.com.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Les Mills