There are a couple of key contributing factors which go on to determine exercise participation in a person’s younger years. At an age where you’re not independent and fully aware of the ramifications of lifestyle choices, the key factor lies with the parent/guardian taking on the onus of navigating the child down a path of healthy habits.
The importance of doing so has obvious benefits on the early stages of development and avoiding common diseases such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. But a recent study conducted by kinesiology researchers at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Ariz, suggests adopting a structured exercise regime at an early age, focused around developing physical fitness and sporting prowess may have some profound health benefits that cascades into later years.
The study, which was recently concluded, began back in 1968 with exercise physiologist, Jack Daniels, examining an array of fitness variables to determine the prospects of 26 young male endurance athletes at the 1968 US Olympic trials and the Olympic Games. Daniels analysed athlete’s vo2 max and aerobic capacity, among some other physiological variables. At this point of initial assessments the athletes were in their early to mid-twenties.
Curious to determine the course of health & fitness that these athletes’ followed, Daniel’s ran follow-up assessments 25 years later in 1993. The data from the follow-up study was then archived away until in 2012 it became known to assistant professor in kinesiology, Sarah Everman, creating the thought-child to yet more follow-up research, which would morph the entire data-piece into a historical log of physical fitness trends and relevance in terms of health longevity.
22 of the original subjects agreed to follow-up tests at the University (3 subjects had since died and 1 subject refused to be part of the follow-up test).
All subjects were taken through the same testing protocol as they completed in the initial test, 45 years previous, whilst gaining an understanding of current levels of physical activity.
The researchers found that although subjects were still physically active, exercising a few hours each week via means of walking, jogging or cycling, none remained competitive athletes.
In terms of physiological deviation from the elite standards set in their youth, the study found that the subject’s vo2 max had reduced significantly since previous tests we carried out. However the subjects still remained in the top 10 percentile of the elderly population within America.
The key finding from that study was the fact that the subjects rate of physiological decline was the same as individuals without the elite athlete pedigree. Therefore de-bunking skeptic’s belief that genetic variance is the causation of health longevity, placing more emphasis on the individuals’ self-induced physiological starting point as the influential determinant of sustaining a functional, healthy body into old age.
The study also eludes to the importance of habit forming from an early age. Although physical exertion tailed off considerably as the subjects aged, exercising remained a constant throughout their lives.
Another consideration noted within the study was the existing data surrounding health and fitness norms for the elderly population and the idea that perhaps our understanding of healthy for the older population. Most existing data only uses data from sedentary individuals, which puts the validity of the data under question, skewing our conceived notions of health at this age.