I have spent the last 2 days at Kings College London at the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Science, taking part in a research project. The study title is, ‘Defining the benchmark for optimal human ageing’. They are trying to find out more about how much the body changes as a result of the ageing process and the optimal level of physical activity that is needed to allow us to age without being affected by the negative effects of inactivity.
I signed up for this research project a few months ago and it was a coincidence that my testing dates are not long before the start of the big LeJog ride.
The research project is making a detailed study of healthy cyclists who undertake as much physical activity as could reasonably be expected. The study is testing the relationship between age and physiological function in vigorous exercisers.
Cyclists have been mainly recruited from members of Audax. The aim is to test 60 men and 60 women through the 2 years of the project. However, in the first year only 15 suitable women have come forward for testing. More women need to be found to make the women’s results meaningful. If there are any female cyclists out there ages 55 – 85 who consider themselves healthy and active please get in touch with Ross Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org
The testing is done mainly in the laboratory at the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Science. This meant the Bat leaving Dorset and staying in London for 2 nights. An adventure in itself!
Ross does most of the testing, bringing in Lindsay Marjoram for the blood tests and an extra person to ‘offer encouragement’ in the Exercise Capacity test on the cycle Ergometer. The nervous system is tested using electrodes and more electricity is used to test muscle function. I found all this very interesting and quite entertaining. I could not describe any of it as painful though some of the sensations were a bit unusual.
I was outraged to find that next door neighbours Guys Hospital charge the project £300 for every DXA scan they do to measure body composition. I had assumed the research would be carried out in a spirit of cooperation. The scan was fine and required me to lie still for a while whist an x ray beam passed over my body. I was really entertained by the results of the scan which confirmed my view that I am ‘big – boned’. It was good to have a very accurate measurement of my bone, fat and lean tissue.
There were a few questionnaires to fill in and some simple cognitive tests. Then the balance test: standing on one leg with arms folded and eyes shut for 10 seconds is quite challenging (try it!)
An optional test is the Quadriceps Muscle biopsy which provides thigh muscle for analysis of fibre types and a range of different factors which may provide biomarkers of the ageing process. I look forward to receiving a detailed analysis of the muscle fibre type composition.
I really enjoyed my 2 days of testing. It was interesting and mostly good fun. I have some results that were immediately available and will get a full report when the blood and stuff have been analysed. Ross was able to reassure me that my fitness was OK for E2E however the cognitive ability test did indicate that I might struggle to find my way!