Washington: Sports scientists have revealed that impairments to health and physical performance are not primarily a result of aging but of bad lifestyle habits and lack of exercise.
Sporty elderly people have a life expectancy that is almost 4 years higher and are often faster than younger athletes.
Dieter Leyk and his team analysed the stamina of more than 600, 000 marathon and half marathon runners and asked them about their lifestyle habits and their health.
Marathon running is particularly suitable for studying because participants have to put in sufficient training hours for the competition, and the athletes accommodate this into their day accordingly.
The scientists found that unfavourable characteristics such as obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity were rare in runners, and reductions in physical performance were more likely to be the result of biological aging processes.
These reductions make their presence felt only after the 54th year of life and are but slight.
More than 25 percent of 50- to 69-year-olds had taken up running only in the preceding 5 years and participated in a marathon nonetheless.
The study appears in the latest issue of Deutsches Arzteblatt International.