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Endurance training turns back the clock for older women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

For the first time, researchers have shown hug benefits to older women who engage in endurance training. The study is the first to show that post menopausal women respond much like younger women do to vigorous cycling. Scientists say less vigorous exercise like swimming, walking on a treadmill or jogging are likely to provide the same benefits to women in their fifties, and could even turn back the physiologic clock sixteen years.

The study comes from UC Berkeley researchers. According to study leader and exercise physiologist George Brooks, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, “The results are very encouraging for exercise without weight loss as an effective means for increasing vigor and controlling risk factors for chronic diseases in older women."

After age 30, our capacity to take in and use oxygen declines by one percent each year. Brooks says, "So, in effect, the women in our study had the cardiovascular and metabolic capabilities of women 16 years younger." Ten healthy, non-exercising women in their 50’s were enrolled in a twelve week endurance training program that included 60 minutes of vigorous cycling each morning. The results showed that women in their 50’s can gain significant benefits from endurance training.

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Marilyn Graham, who participated in the 2006 study, admits it was not easy. "It was really intense, and on some days my legs felt like wet noodles. On a cranky day I'd say, 'Let me off this stupid bike!'" But she dropped two dress sizes without losing weight, and found she had more energy at the end of the day. Graham was 56 years old when she signed up for the endurance training study.

Women who are post menopausal have less estrogen and decreased lean body mass. In general, aerobic capacity declines after menopause. The researchers conducted to the study to see if women could achieve the same benefits from vigorous exercise as younger women. According to Zinta Zarins, PhD, who conducted the testing, …”despite changes in hormones and changes in body composition, postmenopausal women can make significant changes in their cardiovascular fitness without going on extreme diets."

The women studied, all in their fifties, benefited from regular endurance training, evidenced by lower blood pressure, heart rate, and increased ability to burn fat. Women in their 50’s and post-menopausal can greatly benefit from regular vigorous exercise, despite metabolic changes that occur with aging and estrogen declines. The women in the study reported dropping a dress size, increased vigor, decreased joint pain, and changes in body shape. The metabolic changes seen from endurance training were the comparable to women 16 years younger.

UC Berkeley News

Written by Kathleen Blanchard, RN
Charlotte, NC
Exclusive to eMaxHealth