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The relationships and interactions between age, exercise and physiological function

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Norman R. Lazarus, Stephen D. R. Harridge, Janet M. Lord

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of physiology
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2018


King's Authors


This brief review focuses on the relationships and interactions between human ageing, exercise and physiological function. It explores the importance of the selection of participants for ageing research, the strengths and deficiencies of both cross‐sectional and longitudinal studies and the complexities involved in understanding time‐dependent, lifelong physiological processes. As being physically active is crucial to fostering healthy ageing, it is essential that participants in health and ageing research are defined in terms of their physical activity / exercise status as well as other lifestyle factors. Comparisons of exercisers with non‐exercisers has suggested that there is a mosaic of regulation of ageing both within and across physiological systems. We suggest that four broad categories exist which encompass this regulation. These are i) systems and indices that are age‐dependent, but activity independent; ii) systems that are age‐dependent, but also malleable by exercise; iii) systems that are not age affected but are altered by exercise and iv) systems that are neither age nor activity dependent. We briefly explore the concept of a mosaic of regulation in a selection of physiological systems that include skeletal muscle, the immune and endocrine systems and cognitive function and how these categories fit within the broad framework of understanding the physiology of human ageing.

Schematic to depict how healthy or diseased ageing phenotypes are the product of the interaction and regulation of physiological systems that can broadly be grouped into 4 categories on the basis of their malleability or otherwise to exercise and to the ageing process.

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