The Ageing Process Part II - What Happens As We Age?

In part II on the ageing process we take a look at physiological changes that will occur to our body

Physiological changes occur to our body with the ageing process. These changes include:

1.    Decline in aerobic capacity (VO2 max) 5-15% per decade after 25 years

2.    Decline in maximal cardiac output

3.    Smaller stroke volume during maximal exercise

4.    Plasma red cell and total blood volume are lower in adults

5.    Reduction in maximal heart rate 6-10bpm per decade

6.    Heart rate at the same relative work rate (same % of VO2 max), is lower in older versus younger adults

7.    Blood pressures are generally higher at both absolute and relative work rates in older adults

8.    Heat tolerance is reduced

9.    Elasticity of peripheral vascular vessels is reduced (thereby increasing risk of elevated blood pressure)

10. Muscular strength suffers a 30% decrease between 50 and 70 years (40% women aged 55-64 cannot lift 4.5kg)

11. Loss of elasticity of connective tissue

12. Loss of flexibility

13. Decline in bone strength and density

14. Bones become more brittle and fractures with less energy

15. Decrease in muscle mass 50% between ages 20 and 90 years (greater in women than men)

16. Loss of muscle fibres, especially in quadriceps (more pronounced in your fast twitch muscle fibre)

17. Insulin insensitivity, glucose tolerance and reduced metabolic rate

18. Decrease in lung capacity

19. Joint related disease

Don’t get worried about all these changes as many can be prevented or slowed by remaining active. To show you, the list below compares the effects of ageing with the effects of exercise on the body.

Factor                  Change With Ageing               Change With Exercise

Resting heart rate                     Little or no change                                                           Decreases

Maximal cardiac output                 Decreases                                                                       Increases

Resting + Exercise BP                      Increases                                                                         Decreases

Maximal oxygen uptake                  Decreases                                                                       Increases

HDL                                                           Decreases                                                                      Increases

Reaction time                                     Decreases                                                                       Increases

Muscular strength                        Decreases                                                                       Increases

Muscle endurance                           Decreases                                                                      Increases

Bone mass                                           Decreases                                                                      Increases

Flexibility                                          Decreases                                                                      Increases

Fat-free body mass                         Decreases                                                                     Increases

Percent body fat                              Increases                                                                     Decreases

Glucose tolerance                          Decreases                                                                    Increases

Recover time                                     Increases                                                                      Decreases

Remember, it’s never too late to start slowing the process, but the longer you leave it the longer and harder it will be – “Change-Challenge-Achieve.”


Martin McKone