How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining

 Cycling Group, Health, News  Comments Off on How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining
Mar 312018

Professor Norman Lazarus, aged 82, has the immune system of a 20 year old

Doing lots of exercise in older age can prevent the immune system from declining and protect people against infections, scientists say.

They followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some now in their 80s, and found they had the immune systems of 20-year-olds.

Prof Norman Lazarus, 82, of King’s College London, who took part in and co-authored the research, said: “If exercise was a pill, everyone would be taking it.

“It has wide-ranging benefits for the body, the mind, for our muscles and our immune system.”

The research was published in the journal Aging Cell.

Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research, said: “The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.

“Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues.”

The researchers looked at markers in the blood for T-cells, which help the immune system respond to new infections.

These are produced in the thymus, a gland in the chest, which normally shrinks in size in adulthood.

‘Out of puff’

They found that the endurance cyclists were producing the same level of T-cells as adults in their 20s, whereas a group of inactive older adults were producing very few.

The researchers believe that being physically active in old age will help people respond better to vaccines, and so be better protected against infections such as flu.

Steve Harridge, co-author and professor of physiology at King’s College London, said: “Being sedentary goes against evolution because humans are designed to be physically active.

“You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to reap the benefits – or be an endurance cyclist – anything which gets you moving and a little bit out of puff will help.”

Prof Harridge and Prof Lazarus believe that highly physically active older people represent the perfect group in which to analyse the true effects of biological ageing.

A separate paper in Aging Cell found that the cyclists did not lose muscle mass or strength, and did not see an increase in body fat – which are usually associated with ageing.

I met a dozen of the cyclists, on a morning ride in Surrey. Despite the bitter cold, they were universally cheerful, and clearly used to riding in all weathers.

They are members of Audax, a long-distance cycling organisation that organises events ranging from 100km to 300km.

The older members – in their 80s – say they do only the “short” 100km (62-mile) rides, but this is still highly impressive.

So why do they do it?

Pam Jones, 79, told me: “I do it for my health, because it’s sociable, and because I enjoy the freedom it gives you.”

Brian Matkins, 82, said: “One of the first results I got from the medical study was I was told my body fat was comparable to that of a 19-year-old.”

Aged just 64, Jim Woods, is a comparative youngster in the group. He averages 100 miles a week on his bike, with more during the summer.

He said: “I cycle for a sense of wellbeing and to enjoy our wonderful countryside.”

Cycling 60 miles or more may not be your idea of fun, but these riders have found something that gives them pleasure, which is a key reason why they continue.

From BBC

Local volunteers with IT know-how are transforming people’s lives

 News  Comments Off on Local volunteers with IT know-how are transforming people’s lives
Mar 292018

The Dorset branch of a national volunteering programme that helps disabled and older people with their computer problems is supporting people in the local area with their IT needs.

AbilityNet helps disabled and older people use computers and the internet, whatever their disability. Access to the internet can be hugely empowering, especially if they have limited mobility or lack the resources to get out and about as much as they would like.

AbilityNet offers a free helpline and its website offers lots of free advice and information. One of its free services is ITCanHelp, a national network of Disclosure-checked volunteers who can visit disabled and older people in their homes and diagnose and fix most computer related problems. This may include installing and setting up hardware, software, internet and email, as well as changing settings to make equipment more user-friendly.

The Dorset ITCanHelp County Co-ordinator for the Region says that many people want to use computers and the internet but don’t know where to start. “10.5 million adults don’t have basic digital skills and a large proportion of disabled and older people have never have been online and are therefore excluded from many activities we all take for granted.”

For the past two decades, ITCanHelp’s 250 volunteers have been providing disabled and older people nationwide with the vital IT support they need. During 2017 the service made over 1500 free visits to disabled and older people across the country.

ITCanHelp are always looking for new volunteers to join the team, if you have good IT skills and would like to spend a few hours a month helping people with their IT issues, or bringing them into the digital age, this is a fantastic and very rewarding way to do it. In return you gain access to the latest IT training and info as well as the opportunity to network with other IT professionals and all your travel expenses are paid for.

If you could benefit from the service or are interested in joining the volunteering team please call 0800 269 545 email or visit

Notes – about ITCanHelp

AbilityNet is a registered charity. AbilityNet has over 20 years’ experience enabling people with disabilities to access technology and the internet at home, at work and in education. AbilityNet has worked with clients in the private, public and voluntary sector including all major Departments of State and many FTSE top 100 indexed companies.

Even healthy fast food can make you fat

 Health  Comments Off on Even healthy fast food can make you fat
Mar 182018

Office workers should also switch off their phones and ignore emails while eating lunch, experts say

How you eat is as important as what you eat, with slower diners far less likely to be obese than those who wolf down their food, a study suggests.

Researchers analysing data on nearly 60,000 people found that slow eaters were 42 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese than fast eaters, while those who ate at a normal speed had a 29 per cent lower risk.

Experts said that people who ate quickly did not allow time for the brain to read cues from the gut that it was no longer empty. They have suggested chewing every bite at least ten times, with a goal of 20 times. Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Eating more slowly means we tend to feel satiated for longer and gives more time for the hormones to signal ‘stop eating’. In particular, workers who snatch their lunch at the desk are doing their health no favours. They should stop what they’re doing, switch off their phones and emails and preferably take a half hour away from the office altogether.”

The study by Kyushu University in Japan is based on health insurance data for 59,717 Japanese men and women who had type 2 diabetes diagnosed and had regular health check-ups between 2008 and 2013. The authors said that their findings would support “interventions aimed at reducing eating speed” to prevent obesity and lower the associated health risks.

In the UK, 63 per cent of adults are overweight and 27 per cent of those are obese. The research, published in the BMJ Open online journal, relied on patients’ own assessments of eating speed. Slow eaters tended to be healthier and have a healthier lifestyle than fast eaters. They also had slightly smaller waists.


Drink water

A 2013 study compared consumption of a group volunteers over two meals – one of which they were told to eat imagining they were in a rush, and the other of which they were told to imagine they had no time constraints. When they ate slowly, people drank around 12oz (350ml) of water, compared to 9oz when eating fast.

Chew your food more

Studies have shown this cuts the number of calories consumed. According to Dr Joanna Dolgoff, author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right!, “One of the major reasons for eating too fast is not chewing long enough. To slow down your eating, chew every bite a minimum of 10 times — but shoot for 20.”

Aim for your meal to last at least 20 minutes

It is thought the body takes around 20 minutes to register that it is full – so taking less time over your meal does not give the brain chance to read hunger cues properly.

Pick foods that take some effort to eat

A 2011 study found that people offered pistachios with shells on as a snack consumed 41 per cent fewer calories than those offered the nuts already shelled – but there was no significant difference in how they rated fullness or satisfaction.

Published in The Times