study by researchers at Ball State University looked at regular exercisers from the running and fitness boom of the 1970s and compared their muscles to active 20-year-olds and those who were their age and weren't active.

Fifty-six 75-year-olds were selected for this study, half of them had been active for decades, having taken up exercise as a hobby; and 28 who had not exercised during their adulthood. They were then paired with a third group: active young people in their 20s.

All of them were brought into a lab where their aerobic capacities, blood capillaries and muscle enzymes were measured through tissue samples. Anyone who registered high numbers in these areas would indicate muscular health.

Now, it’s been widely believed that both the human cardiovascular system and muscles decline with age. The scientists expected to see that in this study, with the younger people having the strongest and healthiest muscles and highest aerobic capabilities.

They were surprised when they compared the muscles of the active 70-year-olds to the active 20-year-olds and found that they were quite similar. The number of capillaries and enzymes were easily comparable, and both sets were far higher than the numbers of the inactive 70-year-olds.

Not all of the numbers were equal, however, as the active older adult group were found to have lower aerobic capacities than the younger people. But, when compared to the sedentary group, their aerobic health was 40 percent better. Also, when calculating what is normal for cardiovascular health for those in each age range including those outside of the study, the researchers discovered that the active older group were comparable to those who were thirty years younger!

While this study cannot be considered fully conclusive because it did not factor in genes, diet, income and lifestyle, it does suggest that being active throughout our lives builds up a reserve of good health for later, either slowing or eluding physical fragility. 

If you haven’t been exercising, it’s never too late to start. What you do now to keep active will help you later on in your life!