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Immunity For All –

Everybody will have heard of the immune system. We all have one and it is instrumental in fighting and resisting infection.

The trouble is it can deteriorate with age and bad health. There are T-cells in the blood produced by a gland in the chest, the thymus, which help the effectiveness of the immune system. The thymus reduces in size with age.

Research by King’s College London and Birmingham University studied the effect of long-distance cycling on the elderly. The cyclists were in their 70s and 80s and were found to have the immune system of normal 20 year olds. Usually the immune system declines by 2-3% every year from our 20s.

These keen cyclists were found to be producing a large amount of the important T-cells, while old adults who took no exercise produced very few, thus reducing the effectiveness of the immune system.

The study group would do regular rides of 100km (over 60 miles) or more.

The research participants were particularly active but any reasonable amount of physical activity would bring some benefit in this direction. People are meant to be physically active rather than leading a sedentary life-style.

It was also found that this group of cyclists maintained a good level of strength and muscle mass and had no excess body fat. Their body fat compared well with 20 year olds, and not at all in line with the standard ageing process.

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A recent study in the UK followed over 260,000 people and looked at the connection between active community and serious diseases, like heart, strokes, type-2 diabetes and cancers. People in the UK are more inactive than people in most countries with one death out of six being attributed to lack of physical activity.

The study lasted for five years and looked at how people travelled to work and risks of illness and death. Means of transport were private vehicle, public transport, walking, cycling and a mixture of them. Other health factors were taken into account, such as smoking, body mass index, diet, age, sex, ethnicity, risk of road accidents.

Those cycling to work got the greatest benefits with risk of dying from heart disease dropping by 52% and from cancer by 40%. Even developing these diseases fell by 46% and 45% respectively.

For walkers, risk of heart disease was 27% lower and the risk of dying from heat disease dropped by 36%. Distances to work for the walkers was shorter than for the cyclists, so perhaps the walkers were not achieving the same benefits as the cyclists and walking as an activity tends to be less intense than cycling.

With commuters who walked or cycled as a part of their journey to work there was still some benefit.
The overall message was clear.
Also the more people who cycle or walk to work will reduce congestion and lower motor pollution levels.

Start peddling,
Jayne