A study of fit amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 has found many are physically and biologically much younger than most people of the same age.
Not everyone can emulate Bradley Wiggins, but serious cycling may help to keep you young, scientists say.
A study of fit amateur cyclists aged 55 to 79 found that many were physically and biologically much younger than most people of the same age.
The 81 male and 41 female participants underwent extensive tests of their heart, lung, neuromuscular, metabolic, and hormonal functions.
Their reflexes, muscle and bone strength, and oxygen uptake were also measured, as well as mental ability and general health and well-being.
The results showed that among the cyclists the effects of ageing were far from obvious, with younger and older members of the group having similar levels of muscle strength, lung power and exercise capacity.
In one basic test of falling risk in older people the time taken to stand from a chair, walk three metres, turn, walk back and sit down was recorded.
Taking more than 15 seconds to complete the task generally indicates a high risk of falling. But even the oldest cyclists - those in their seventies - had times that fell well within the norm for healthy young adults.
"Inevitably, our bodies will experience some decline with age, but staying physically active can buy you extra years of function compared to sedentary people," said Professor Norman Lazarus, one of the researchers from King's College London and himself a cyclist.
"Cycling not only keeps you mentally alert, but requires the vigorous use of many of the body's key systems, such as your muscles, heart and lungs which you need for maintaining health and for reducing the risks associated with numerous diseases."
The cyclists were recruited deliberately to exclude effects from a sedentary lifestyle that may cause changes in the body capable of being confused with those due to ageing.
Men and women had, respectively to be able to cycle 100 kilometres in under 6.5 hours, and 60 kilometres in 5.5 hours, to be included in the study.
Smokers, heavy drinkers, and people with high blood pressure or other health conditions were excluded.