John Casey MISCP MScSportsMed
Aging, it’s effects and the science behind it is something that is more researched than ever in light of the increasing proportion of the population of the world that will be at retirement age or older over the next few years. The economics of aging is becoming more important and is led in Ireland by Prof Eamon O’Shea in NUIG, when he is not analysing, innovating, and coaching hurling at least!
I have always thought it interesting how aging can affect people differently. I can think of many examples of people who, despite advancing years, remain remarkably good both physically and mentally. (One spritely 93-year-old Nenagh Eire Og supporter springs to mind immediately)!! Also, I can think of many much younger people who present much more physically declined than their years would suggest they should be. Why is this?
Obviously, there are many factors at play here. Medical conditions, physical injury, genetic predispositions to name a few but they all come under the common banner of stress. Physical, mental, and emotional stress all have the same effect on the body in that they raise cortisol levels. When cortisol level remains high for a prolonged period of time it has a detrimental effect on the body. It doesn’t matter what the reason for the elevated cortisol is. A tough week training can have the same effect as a week worrying about something. If you are training hard, working hard, and worrying at the same time can you imagine the impact on cortisol levels?
So, I was really interested to come across some research on aging done in Harvard Medical School that was published in May 2023. It appears that scientists have discovered a natural anti-aging mechanism in humans. Humans can effectively de-age after recovering from a stressful event. Sounds crazy but bear with me.
Chronological age represents the number of years you have lived. But you also have a biological age, and this does not always correlate with your chronological age. Your biological age is influenced by stress. This study showed that your biological age is more flexible than your chronological age. So, depending on the stress in your life your biological age may be older or younger that your chronological age. This study showed that you can actually reverse your biological age and that doing so can decrease your mortality. One of the authors stated that “the ability to recover from stress may be an important determinant of successful aging and longevity”, or how we grow old.
So, what does this have to do with physiotherapy I hear you ask! Well, can you imagine the stress associated with chronic lower back pain, arthritis, inability to work or play sports? This study further highlights the importance of making a full recovery and the importance of doing so as quickly as possible.
Making a full recovery is only part of the solution, however. Maintaining the improvement is imperative. If one returns to the behaviours that led to the injury initially, one can only expect to become injured again. Every injury needs to result in a behavioural change and the only way to change a behaviour is through understanding and education. At SportsPlus we are committed to facilitating full recovery and maintaining it so keep an eye out for our injury specific classes which are beginning in July 2023. They will be physio led and tailored to individual abilities in a safe and controlled environment. There will be both a physical and an educational component to each class and we are very excited about launching them. We will be advertising them on our website and our social media channels.
If your treatment results in you making a full recovery and acquiring some positive lifestyle changes to boot the impact on your biological age could be incredible. So, when you are finished your course of physiotherapy and you bounce out of the clinic saying that you feel years younger, you may actually be!!!!!!
Paganik et al, Biological age is increased by stress and restored upon recovery, Cell Metabolism May 2023, Volume 35, Issue 5, p807-20.