Longevity Briefs: Are Older People Getting Fitter?

Posted on 30 October 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Increased life expectancy doesn’t necessarily mean increased healthy life expectancy. While average human lifespan has significantly improved over the last century for a variety of reasons, has this led to increased health and fitness in old age?

What did the researchers do: Researchers in Finland studied and compared the mental and physical fitness of 75/80 year-olds born 28 years apart. Participants in the first cohort were born in 1910 and 1914, while those in the second were born in 1938-1939 or 1942-1943.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: When tested at the same age, participants in the later cohort had improved physical and mental health compared with the earlier cohort. This included walking speed, grip strength, knee extension strength, some improved metrics for respiratory health, and improved cognitive function. The authors argue that these results are likely to be reflective of better education, greater economic opportunity, and greater physical activity and nutrition.

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