How To Keep Your Immune System Young? Cycle, Says New Study

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The immune system of older people who exercise regularly are similar to young people’s. That’s according to a new study that questions the notion that aging inevitably makes us frail.  ( Jeff Pachoud | Getty Images )

Aging can't be stopped — but it can be helped, according to a new study that observed cyclists and adults who didn't exercise regularly.

The researchers performed tests on 125 amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 and compared the data with a wide age group who didn't exert physical activities on the regular.

The results were published in the Aging Cell journal, showing that those who cycle preserved muscle mass and strength as they aged. Their also maintained stable levels of body fat and cholesterol. But what's surprising is the effects of regular strenuous physical activity to the immune system.

Cycling Can Help You Stay Young?

The researchers looked for markers of T cell production in their participants. T cells are one of the most critical aspects of the immune system, and they play many key roles, including avoiding and combating foreign elements.

Overall, the researchers found higher levels of young and fresh T cells on the cyclists compared with those on the people who lived mostly sedentary lifestyles. But when compared with a younger group, the researchers were surprised to discover that immunosenescence, the natural decline of the immune system, may not be as unstoppable as we think it is.

"We conclude that many features of immunosenescence may be driven by reduced physical activity with age," they said.


After a person turns 20 years old, their immune system declines by about 2 to 3 percent every year, according to Janet Lord, a professor at the University of Birmingham in the UK and the coauthor of the study. This is precisely why older age groups are more prone to infections, ailments, and worst of all, various types of cancer. But in their research, the participants had the immune system comparable to that of a 20-year-old, so they have added shield against such risks.

Ultimately, the findings challenge the notion that aging makes people more frail. It gives credence to the notion that regular exercising well into the old age is an excellent way to lead healthier lives.

Other previous studies have also shown the benefits of cycling. One such study published last April suggests constant cycling diminishes the risk of dying from all causes by over 40 percent, and cancer and heart disease by 45 percent. Cycling may also have positive effects to a person's mental health, with studies showing those who commute by cycling are happier and less susceptible to depression than those who don't.

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