?Not only does swimming slow down the aging process in terms of respiration, muscle mass, bone density, cardiovascular activity and neurological function there?s also evidence to suggest that it increases mental health and even spiritual and social health. Fact is, swimmers lead happier, healthier lives than those who don?t get in the water.?
- Joel M. Stager PhD. Indiana University (July 2006)
The single most important factor related to successful aging is good health. The health benefits of physical activity have been well documented. Possession of a meager fitness level has been identified as the prime predictor of premature death. Men and women with low fitness levels have been shown to be two times more likely to die earlier than their fit counterparts. Exercise engaged in on a regular basis has been demonstrated to be a key component of successful aging. In particular, age?related decline in musculo-skeletal function can be markedly reduced.
Steven E. Blair PhD., Research Director of the Cooper Institute for Aerobics has conducted many studies on the link between exercise and health. His findings have consistently revealed low levels of fitness to be as significant a risk factor for early morbidity as smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes. Of the 75,000 individuals who received a preventive medical examination at the Aerobics Centre swimmers were found to have favorable risk profiles. He concluded that individuals who swim are associated with good health and fitness, and that such benefits are comparable to those seen in individuals who participate in other common forms of regular exercise.
Nearly thirty years ago Dr. James Fries of Stanford University School of Medicine proposed a theory of compression of morbidity. He suggested individuals should try to prolong high quality life and push the onset of chronic illness and disability into an advanced an age as possible. Fries reported his finding of an ongoing longitudinal study of runners 50 and over initiated in 1984 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Mortality in the control subjects was more than double that of the runners. According to Dr. Fries vigorous serious exercise pursued over a lifetime is a very, very good way to go!
2000-2010 has been proclaimed as the Bone and Joint Decade by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. According to Roy Shephard, MD, PhD, professor emeritus of applied physiology at the University of Toronto, "Both aerobic power and muscle strength decline by as much as 10% for every decade of adult life, but a progressive exercise prescription can enhance function by 10% to 20%; thus, in terms of functional capacity, conditioning can reduce biological age." Recent research has indicated that those who exercise, in combination with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables , have a low to moderate alcohol intake and abstain from smoking, can enhance their longevity by as much as fourteen years. One recent study of twins found that those who were physically active appeared biologically younger than their sedentary peers and concluded that a sedentary lifestyle accelerates the aging process. The researchers identified telomeres, key pieces of DNA, to shorten more quickly in inactive individuals. Those most active were found to have telomeres comparable in length to those up to ten years younger, on average. Psychological stress has also been found to have the effect of shrinking telomere length upon successive cell duplication. This demonstrates the added efficacy of physical activity in reducing stress levels and promoting an anti-aging effect. The researchers considered adults who took part in regular physical activity to be biologically younger than sedentary individuals of similar chronological age.
A limited number of studies have investigated changes in objective competitive attainment of Masters athletes in the years following optimal performance. This is best accomplished in sports rich in retrievable performance data such as running and swimming. A recent study analyzed patterns of age-related performance decline in 45 Masters runners who had systematically trained for over a decade. Decline in physical performance ( for sprinting and middle distance running ) was shown not to have diminished as much as in predicted normative trends.
The term ?a sound mind in a sound body? derived from the Latin ?mens sana in corpore sano? and Roman poet Juvenal, has been taken to mean that only a healthy body can produce or sustain a healthy mind. Interestingly, a recent Scottish study confirmed the contribution of physical fitness to increased mental acuity in older individuals even after childhood cognitive ability scores were accounted for. Fitness then, is not only beneficial in itself, but is associated with improved cognitive functioning.
A 94-year-old Australian great-great-grandmother, Phyllis Turner, became the world's oldest person to earn a university masters degree. She earned a Medical Science Masters Degree, from Australia's Adelaide University
Rob Taylor, Reuters Published: Thursday, August 02, 2007
As a group Masters participants exemplify above identified minimum desirable levels of physical activity for basic health benefits. Indeed, as motivated, well trained and functionally fit individuals, compared to others of the same age and gender, Masters participants in swimming, and other activities, demonstrate evidence of the slowing of age related processes.
?Just about every part of the human body benefits from swimming. It improves the cardiovascular health as well as muscle tone and overall flexibility. There?s simply no exercise like it ? the only activity we know of where you can say that if that?s all you do for exercise , you can be almost perfectly fit.?
- Joel M. Stager PhD. Indiana U (July 2006)