(HealthDay News) If seniors want to start a vigorous exercise program, there’s a good chance their lungs can keep up with the extra demand, a new study finds.
Researchers assessed younger and older adults to determine their lungs’ capacity to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide (lung-diffusing capacity) during physical activity. This exchange between the lungs and blood delivers oxygen throughout the body, but typically decreases with age.
The study included four groups. One was young adults with an average age of 27. They had normal fitness levels. The second group was highly fit adults. Their average age was also 27. A third group was made of older adults. Their average age was 69 and they had normal fitness levels. The final group was highly fit older adults. Their average age was 65.
The study volunteers did increasingly difficult workouts on a stationary bicycle. As the study volunteers exercised, researchers measured their lung-diffusing capacity.
The researchers thought both older groups, especially the older highly fit volunteers, would have impaired lung function versus the younger groups. But the increase in lung-diffusing capacity wasn’t limited in any of the four volunteer groups.
These findings suggest that overall function of the lung’s circulation doesn’t become limited during vigorous exercise, no matter what your age or fitness level, the researchers said. And, that seems to be true even though negative age-related changes in pulmonary circulation do occur.
The study team was led by Kirsten Coffman, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The results were published recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more on physical activity.