Boost Immunity & Slow Aging - Here's How...

Who doesn't want to stay young(er) for longer? And who doesn't want fewer winter colds and flus? Well as cyclists we have some good news. Cycling can hold back the effects of ageing and rejuvenate the immune system!

Scientists carried out tests on 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 and compared them with healthy adults from a wide age group who did not exercise regularly. The journal Aging Cell, showed that the cyclists preserved muscle mass and strength with age and more surprisingly, the anti-ageing effects of cycling appeared to extend to the immune system. In short, a routine of daily cycling can help combat illness and fight off some of the viruses currently affecting our daily lives.

The immune system naturally declines by about 2-3% every year starting in our 20s, hence why we’re more susceptible to infections as we get older. This is due to a shrinking thymus - an organ of the immune system where T cells mature. T cells are responsible for attacking harmful antigens. By the time we’re middle aged, the thymus is only 15% of its maximum size! The Aging Celll study followed 125 long-distance cyclists (some were in their 80s!) and found that they had the immune system of 20-year-olds. The cyclists were producing the same level of T-cells as a someone in their 20s, compared to a group of inactive adults who were producing very few. As a result, the researchers believe that doing a physical activity such as cycling, will help people respond better to vaccines, and will be better protected against infections. Not only that but because the cyclists have the immune system of someone much younger, they will have fewer health problems such as rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer.

Avid cyclist Dr. Wes Clements of SteadyMD, believes that daily exercise, such as cycling, has already been shown to boost the immune system in other ways too.

“There’s growing evidence that regular exercise may help maintain a strong immune system as we age,” Clements says. “While there’s still a lot of research needed in this field, you shouldn’t wait to begin living an active lifestyle. We already know that exercise maintains proper cardiovascular, lung, muscle and even brain health. By keeping these vital systems strong, we are able to fight off infections much easier.”

What's the Catch?

Well ... it seems there is a point where excessive exercise can have a negative effect, and may not be good for the body or the immune system. Research from another study noted overly intense exercise lasting more than 90 minutes can produce hormones known to lower immunity for temporary time periods. This can make you more susceptible to some illnesses for up to three days. So keep cycling but don't overdo it!

So get some miles in your legs and beat the queue to the pharmacy! Those flu and cold treatments aren't half as much fun as a morning on the bike!