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Survey: Average 50-year-old fitter than average 25-year-old. Really?

I had to laugh when I read the headlines in the British press today:

“Average 50-something fitter than 25-year-old, study claims
How the average 50-year-old is healthier than someone half their age
50-year-olds are fitter and healthier than 25-year-olds, claims new study


I don’t know about you, dear MinnPost reader, but even though I pretty much practice what I preach (eat a fairly healthful diet and exercise daily), my 20-something children could easily leave me in the dust if we were to set out on a 5K run today. Yes, that includes my daughter, who gave birth just three weeks ago.

They have youth on their side.

That’s not to say there aren’t 50-somethings out there who could outrun my children. And, as I know from running races, I can outpace some people half my age.

But is the average 50-something fitter than the average 20-something? I doubt it.

And, indeed, that’s not what the “study” (which was really a survey commissioned by a herbal supplement company) found. It did not attempt to determine anybody’s health status.

What the survey actually revealed was the not-so-shocking fact that middle-aged people tend, on average, to pay more attention to their health than their younger peers. And why wouldn’t we? We’re more aware that the clock is ticking.

Here are some of the findings from the survey (which involved 4,000 people, aged 16 to 80), as reported in the Scottish Daily Record:

The average 25-year-old in Britain consumes more than 2,300 calories a day, exercises only three times a week and scoffs 12 types of junk food a month.

But the typical 50-year-old has only 1,990 calories each day, does at least four forms of exercise and treats themselves to just one piece of junk food each week.

And while those in their mid-20s have three takeaways a month, the older generation have only one.

But I was more intrigued by a couple of other findings:

• More than 25 percent of all the Brits surveyed said they bicycled to see friends or to go shopping.

• Almost 4 in 10 of the respondents said they walked either all the way to work or part of the way (to a train station).

(Compare that last figure to a 2005 U.S. Census Bureau analysis that found 9 out of 10 Americans  drive to work.)

So what do you think? Are the 50-somethings in your life fitter than the 20-somethings?

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 07/31/2009 - 12:40 pm.

    I’m sure that many of us in the Twin Cities – 20 somethings and 50 plusers – would love to be able to walk to work or to a mass transit station to get to work. And I’m sure that many in the core cities can.

    But those of us who live in the far flung suburbs, particularly those south of the river, we have very little if any opportunity to do so, particularly if you’re going from south of the river to the western suburbs.

    Others would take the bus & do the walking if only the bus schedules for the MTA and the suburban transits meshed in any meaningful way so that you didn’t end up with a 13 hour day.

    I know that this isn’t the focus of your article, but if transit made more sense and connected more places directly, we’d all probably have more time for more exercise and we wouldn’t all be driving a car by ourselves.

  2. Submitted by Bruce Kvam on 07/31/2009 - 01:26 pm.

    The “study” is another example of how unreliable health reporting is. The number of calories consumed is not a useful measure without knowing the activity level. A sedentary person eating 2500 calories isn’t “fitter” than a very active person who eats 3000 calories. Three thousand calories may not even be enough for someone who is very active.

    Measures of fitness should encompass endurance, strength, speed, muscle-to-fat ratio, blood oxygenation levels and the presence any chronic or debilitating conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, back problems, tendinitis, etc.). Almost undoubtedly the average 50-year-old scores far lower on all these factors.

    What the study does indicate is that the younger generation be much less healthier when they’re 50 if they don’t change their habits. We already know that rates of obesity in 5- to 30-year-olds are far higher than they were thirty years ago.

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