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Exercise and Aging

Exercise is good for you…. Right? Everyone knows that. But is there such a thing as too much exercise, especially as we age?

The more I read on the subject, coupled with actual changes I am experiencing, the more I am convinced that you can “Over” exercise.

Especially when you really start getting up there in years. In less than two months I will be 82. I am both physically and mentally fit. For the last two years I have maintained my weight at 150 lb. (68 kg.) (My racing weight as a teenager.)

I take no medication, but I do take a lot of supplements. I have a complete mistrust of Doctors, Big Pharma, the Food Industry, and Government of course, only because they allow the aforementioned to operate with impunity.

I like and respect my own doctor, but trust him? Hell no. I go in for an annual physical, when he does blood and urine tests. But if he prescribes any medication I research it thoroughly, and invariably find the side effects of said medication is far worse that the condition it is treating.

One has to be their own health advocate. It is my body, so only I get to say what goes in it, and what I do to it. The great thing today is, all the information I need is right there on-line. Yes, there is a lot of miss-information too, but one has to be selective in what one reads. But on reading several articles saying the same thing, one has to accept there is some truth to it.

In the last couple of years, one of the things I have learned about is Free Radicals, and in particular Oxygen Free Radicals. With my limited high school science knowledge, I will try to explain in simple terms. Atoms are made up of a Nucleus of Protons and Neutrons, and electrons orbit around the Nucleus.

An Oxygen atom has two electrons orbiting the nucleus, and six more electrons orbiting outside that. A Free Radical atom has one or more of these electrons missing. It then “Steals” an electron from the atom next to it, which in turn steals one from its neighbor, setting off a chain-reaction of wholesale electron thievery that can actually cause cell damage.  

Free radicals are a natural occurrence, and the body has a defense mechanism in the form of antitoxins that repair the damage done by free radicals. Our bodies produce these antitoxins using nutrients from the food we eat.

The problem is as we age we stop producing these antitoxins and the free radicals are left to ravage our bodies and our brains. It is the reason we become old, get dementia or become more susceptible to cancer and other diseases.

Glutathione is an antitoxin the body makes naturally, and is known as “The mother of all antitoxins.” This is where the supplements come in, and it is here I wish it were it that simple. Glutathione taken orally, rarely makes it past the digestive system. However, the body makes glutathione from amino acids, Cysteine, Glutamine, and Glycine. By taking these supplements, the goal is to help my body produce its own Glutathione.

When we exercise to extremes, especially endurance exercise, which cycling can be if you ride far enough and hard enough, we actually produce free radicals. This is not surprising when you consider intense exercise means we are taking in 10 to 20 times more oxygen than we would while resting.

Our bodies are processing all that extra oxygen as it goes from our lungs to our blood-stream, to our muscles. I ask myself, is it any wonder a few little electrons get lost along the way? A young fit athlete can handle this, even a fit fifty or sixty year old might be okay. But when we get to our seventies and eighties, time starts to catch up fast. I for one have come to respect my limitations.

I ride a moderate pace around 15 mph. pedal a low gear at around 72 rpm, and never ride to the point of exhaustion, or even to the point of being out of breath. Apparently, the worst thing an aging athlete can do is to exercise infrequently, then exercise hard. Weekend Worriers beware. Slow down, if you are like me, you have nothing to prove to yourself, or anyone else.  


If you Google “Exercise and Free Radicals,” or click here there is much info on this subject.

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Reader Comments (10)

A couple of years ago, in the last 60k or so of an early season brevet, i caught up with a rider who told me he was 76. He proceeded to ride me ragged for the remaining distance, and i think the only reason he stayed with me was that i had a brighter headlamp.

i told him that when i grew up i wanted to be just like him.

December 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermike w.

Congrats Dave, look forward to riding with you next May in Greensboro. I will then be 85 so you are just a kid right? I have done just over 5k miles this year, down from my usual 9k a year, that I have done in the past. I ride every day with people half my age and have no trouble holding their pace, But when riding alone I tend to slow down a bit and I am passed a lot by the youngsters. The old saying "been there, seen that, done that" goes through my mind. BUT I have to admit that it peeves me no end. I am not much into the technical side of diets etc, I eat pretty much what I want, wine and beer of course. I figure that this has got me along pretty good for 84 years so "if aint broke dont fix it RIGHT" I think Dave, that our background of riding as we did when young, twiddling our arses off, in a single fixed gear, has had a lot to do with our cycling strength now.

December 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I also don't trust doctors for a simple reason: my parents (79 and 75) were doctors, and their pediatrician friend lived next door to us. They started practicing in the late '60s, and were taiught that medicines should be prescribed as a last resort due to their undesirable side effects, or for specific chronic diseases.

But in the last decades, Big Pharma has found their way into medicine schools, and a whole generation of doctors are told to prescribe drugs as the first line of action. Medical practice is, quite literally, upside down.

Meanwhile, the Chinese health administration is leading the way by merging advanced Western medicine with their ancient heritage of acupuncture, whose effectiveness has been proven with 4,000 years of written data. Their goal is to use traditional acupuncture as a first line of treatment, since it doesn't require expensive infrastructure, delicate equipments or drugs, thus reducing the workload of the hospitals across the country.

December 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Lopez

Thanks Dave, I should read more about this. When did you start taking these supplements? Can you really feel a difference?

December 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I thought this was an interesting aspect of exercise and aging - the effect of intervals:

December 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I started taking supplements about two years ago, when I cut back on mt food intake, and I realized I could not get enough nutrients from the relatively small amount of food I was now consuming. I do feel better, but put that down to a combination of diet, exercise, as well as supplements. I have noticed my skin has improved.

December 12, 2017 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Yes. It's hard to disagree. Appropriate lifestyle, healthy food and supplements can do a lot of wonderful things.
Am-cycling Team

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAm-cycling

My mentor is also 81. I ride with him twice a week in the summer at a recovery pace. (once indoors in the winter) I still do intervals three times a week (I'm 71), although I retired from racing this past year. (I just can't hang in criteriums anymore and I've always hated Time trials).....Getting old really stinks.

December 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill K

Thanks Dave for the always great insight. My mother always said that everything in moderation! I am a firm believer in participated medicine. I do not think it is a matter of not trusting your physician as much as it is understanding the different options to be sure the patient's expectations and goals match up with they physican's advice. If they don't, time for a physician change. Sometimes this could mean quality of life versus longevity decisions which I would assume most physicians are tilted towards longevity. As for exercise intensity, I look at this as more individual and age specific. Me being in my 60's, I still enjoy some moderate intervals but mostly just like to 'ride'. I try to keep physically fit to the point it puts a smile on my face when I ride! I just hope that I can ride like you in my 80's!

December 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike S.

Thanks Dave. I could have written that last paragraph myself, it describes exactly how I behave at 76.

December 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

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