It may feel like old age is slowing you down, but that is not the case for everyone. A new research program found that age is no obstacle to performing well. Even as well as elite cyclists.

The Department of Biomedicine and the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen examined how seniors convert energy when exposed to maximal physical exertion. Six men, aged 46-71 years, cycled 2,700 km, from Copenhagen to the North Cape, in two weeks, and the researchers examined them along the way. The resulting study shows that the seniors expended 4.0 times the basal metabolism. During Tour de France cyclists typically expend 4.3 times the basal metabolism. 

"Until now, it's been unclear whether seniors can perform at near-maximum rates for humans. These results show that regardless of age, the body does not lose the ability to perform at its maximum over a longer period of time. The only difference being that it takes longer for a senior to cover the distance than it would a Tour de France cyclist," Professor Joern Wulff Helge from the Department of Biomedicine and the Center for Healthy Aging, elaborates.

Intake does not match energy consumption

The researchers also examined whether the seniors were able to eat sufficiently to make up for the energy expended. Their study reveals that this was not the case.

"Despite the fact that the participants doubled their normal food intake, they were simply not able to eat enough to make up for their increased energy expenditure. Furthermore, it is interesting that despite the fact that the cyclists' motivation to eat actually increased, their bodies physiologically reacted in a way that likely did not allow them to match the energy expended," Mads Rosenkilde Larsen concludes.

Published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Top image: Shutterstock