Wednesday, March 30, 2011

going old school (triathlon origins)

i've noticed during my time in this sport that there's a surprising lack of awareness about the origins of triathlon. it's surprising, since most other athletes have some knowledge about the history of their respective sports, with even recreational participants having some modicum of understanding about how their sport started. triathletes, in comparison, don't seem to have the same general level of awareness--at least most of the ones i've met at all my races.

which is a shame, because i think it's important to understand how the sport has evolved, in terms of competitors, venues, sponsors, and profile. it helps to produce a greater respect for all the work put in by so many race organizers, volunteers, spectators, and participants to grow triathlon to what it is now. it fosters more gratitude for what the sport is now, and an appreciation for just how fragile it all was (and in some ways still is). it also puts each of us in context, and induces humility by recognizing that our enjoyment is derived from the sacrifices of the past.

to that end, i suggest everyone take some time to refer to the triathlon entry in Wikipedia, which i think does a pretty good job of summarizing the origins of the sport:
there's another more immediate reason as well: a realization of what the essence of triathlon is. to a large, and i think excessive degree, this sport has over the years become a cult of technology, and in so doing a cult of money. almost every race and training session you go, conversations invariably revolve around the latest race suit, latest bicycle, latest shoes, latest sunglasses, latest helmet, latest hat, latest speedomoter, odometer, pedometer, thermometer, power meter, power gauge, nutritional supplement, geographic positioning device, navigational aid, race belt, water bottle, watch, sunscreen, socks, leg-warmers, arm-warmers, underwear, tattoo, bracelet, and any other virtually conceivable marketable item possible within the creative imagination--conscious or subconscious--within the human mind.

it seems all too often that most triathletes' perception of the sport is technology...and the implied ability to pursue it by conspicuously spending money.

which is what triathlon is not.

and it never was.

just go back to the beginning and see what i mean:
a review of the very first days of triathlon shows what the essence of triathlon is about, and what the basics really are:

the essence of triathlon was, and is, not about technology or money. it was, and is, instead about people. pursuing very personal goals. in the company of others who share that desire.

and the basics necessary to achieve this are the barest of bare. with the freedom that comes with simplicity. no fancy bike. no fancy shoes. no fancy race suit or sunglasses or helmet or hat or water bottle or satellite geopositioning link or computer-aided workout tracking or scientifically engineered nutritional supplement. none of that. all that was, and is, needed is something to swim in, something to bike in, and something to run in--and all this can be anything at all.

which is why i applaud when i hear of someone sometimes swimming in nothing but speedos and riding a beach cruiser and running barefoot. because it shows that person is still in touch with the essence and the basics of the sport: personal goals, and the freedom of simplicity.

it's something that i think we all, deep down inside, know as the prime motivation for our involvement in this sport.

and the reason, deep down inside, we need to connect with the past.

and the purpose, deep down inside, of going old school.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

earth hour 2011

oh phooey. i almost forgot about this. well, i guess it's better late than never.

as part of the social causes component of this blog (and me), i've taken up helping out for events like Earth Hour. it's not really much. all i do is write up posts to inform people about it and then do what the occasion asks: turn off all electric devices for 1 hour at a specific date and time. which isn't really that much to ask if you think about it.

you can check out my previous posts from the last 2 years it's been observed:
if you want to learn more, you can also check out the official home page:
and, of course, there is also a video that summarizes everything nicely:
in brief summary, Earth Hour is meant to raise awareness of energy consumption and energy scarcity, with the hope of encouraging greater conservation and efficiency. it started as a grass-roots movement in Australia in 2007, but since then has expanded to more than 1 billion people in cities around the world. it's now managed by the World Wildlife Fund, but is marked by anyone interested in its message.

for this year, Earth Hour is Saturday, March 26, 8:30pm. for those of you way ahead of my timezone (Europe, Africa, Asia, and especially the Western Pacific) you'll have to forgive me, since this post is being written as your Earth Hour is ending. but hopefully i can still catch viewers in my vicinity (West Coast USA), particularly in Southern California, which continues to be a glaring hole of obliviousness relative to the rest of the world--this year there wasn't even a mention in local news media, even as there has been extensive reporting in the rest of the world and despite the fact that news outlets had reports on it the previous 2 years.

for my part, i'll turn all electrical devices off for 1 hour at 8:30pm, including (gulp) my computer and mobile telephone. and with this post, hopefully i've caught your attention and motivated you to do the same.


Friday, March 25, 2011

LA Marathon 2011 race report

so i did the Los Angeles Marathon 2011 this past Sunday. i've been a little slow in posting the usual post-race report, but today's been the first day i've been feeling up to writing a race review with my comments. hopefully nobody minds.

as some of you know, conditions were a little rough. it was cold, with temps eventually being around 55 degrees F (12 degrees C). it was wet, with the news reporting a downpour of around 1.5-4 inches (3.8-10 cm) during the day depending on the location along the race course. it was windy, with wind gusts reaching 20-30 mph (32-48 kph). the combination of all 3 made for a decided chill factor (medical science will tell you it's much harder for your body to retain heat when it's wet and windy), with the desultory cases of hypothermia.

you can read the LA Times comment here:
the LA Times also provided a good series of pictures, which you can check out here:
personally, i can say it was a pretty good experience. despite the conditions and despite the hypothermia (yes, i was among the many), i still finished. not well, not easily, not feeling good, but i finished--and with a positive attitude to share with everyone afterward.

as i mentioned in the pre-race report (reference: LA Marathon 2011 pre-race), i really had low expectations going into this race. courtesy of a sprained ankle and a business trip, i had nowhere near the recommended run training. and it didn't help that i was still sick on race day. as a result, i'd planned on walking significant portions of the course and just focusing on enjoying the sights and sounds. i figure i was doing this for the experience rather than time or glory.

to that end, i made it a point to carry a camera with me and record what i found to be some of the more notable scenes of race day. i figured it's a pretty reflection of Los Angeles and what you should expect from a race here. here's a selection of what i took:
regarding my opinion of the race overall, i'll make a distinction between the race course and the race conditions. while the conditions were not ideal, i think the course itself is. the course is mostly downhill, extremely well-marked, and very much fulfills its mission of providing a scenic tour of what most everyone has in mind when they think of Los Angeles: Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Drive, Dodger Stadium, Griffith Park Observatory, the Hollywood sign, Mann's Chinese Theatre, Fox Theatre, Pantages Theatre, Santa Monica Beach. it's definitely probably one of the faster marathon race routes you'll ever run, although if you're like me you'll be stopping frequently to take pictures on the way.

the crowd itself is what you'd expect: a spectrum of the Southern California community and the tourists from the world who've come to see it. all ~25,000 of them. everyone i saw was in a good mood. ditto for the race volunteers and race spectators--which made a BIG difference as the weather deteriorated later in the day.

in terms of things to take away...well, that's a pretty personal thing, and so is pretty much on you, mate. for me, i've done a fair number of endurance events, so this wasn't anything profound. and i certainly still don't rank it on my list of accomplishments to the Ironmans i've done (and i certainly never will). having said that, i will say that this was a positive experience, and certainly something i could see as being fun (barring, of course, the weather...which was NOT typical for Southern California).

so yeah, of course, i'd recommend this marathon among your list of to-do endurance events.

Friday, March 18, 2011

athletes for japan


i've had more than a few people tell me (or critique, if you want a more accurate word) that endurance athletes seem to be less involved in social causes relative to other sports. the points offered as reference were generally professional athletes in sports like basketball, football (american and soccer), baseball, etc., who i understand are encouraged by their professional leagues and player unions to engage in charitable causes. the comments i've received always led to the observation that in comparison to these other sports, professional endurance athletes seem to be much more introspective and much less engaged in social causes.

i'm not so sure this is true, and i've always insisted that 1) there's less money in professional endurance sports, so high-profile activities are more difficult to carry out; 2) there's less publicity in professional endurance sports, so less awareness of what social causes those athletes pursue; and 3) i'd venture to argue that an empirical analysis with a survey might yield results that would surprise a few people.

having said that, it always warms my heart when i see the endurance sports community rally together for a cause. case in point:
the article is about Run for Japan, which began in the wake of the current Japan disaster within the endurance sports community (primarily long distance runners) but is now broadened out to all athletes in all sports (professional and amateur) with the goal of raising money for Japan victims. the website is at the following:
if you feel like helping Japan earthquake and tsunami (and potentially radiation) victims out, here's another way to do it.

you can see the names and contributions of athletes involved, and it really does make me proud of the sports community. it shows that athletes, including endurance athletes, really are sensitive to what's going on in the world, really do care about what's happening elsewhere, and really do engage in social causes to make the world a better place--in short, that athletes are human beings just like everyone else.

that, and it offers the rest of us more motivation to be the same.

it's all about good karma, baby.

so do good, kids, do good!

Athletes Come to Aid of Japan
New York Times
March 18, 2011
Christopher Clarey

They had just moved back to Britain from Japan, and for several days, the British marathon star Mara Yamauchi and her Japanese husband watched coverage of the developing catastrophe and felt moved beyond words, yet powerless.

Then their friend, the British marathon coach Martin Yelling, called with the right idea. Yelling and some of his colleagues wanted to help relief efforts by mobilizing the global running community, asking people to dedicate one of their runs to Japan with a corresponding donation.

The goal: to cover collectively a distance amounting to the circumference of the earth — 24,901 miles, or nearly 40,000 kilometers — in 28 days, with at least one run dedicated from every country in the world.

The Web site,, was started Thursday, and by the end of the day in Britain, with word just starting to spread, runners from places as farflung as India, Australia, South Africa, the United States and Japan had registered their runs and support.

“It’s been heartbreaking watching on TV, but through running, which is such a positive thing, we can encourage others to make a difference,” said Yamauchi, who is an ambassador for this initiative along with Britain’s biggest running star, Paula Radcliffe.

“Japan is also a running-mad country, so I think using running as a tool to help will appeal to the Japanese population,” she said. “It is just a way for us to help in a small way with a huge problem.”

Small, well-conceived ideas have a chance to grow bigger in a hurry, however, and Japan could clearly use help from all quarters as it faces a death toll that has risen above 6,000 and a repair bill estimated by some specialists at more than $100 billion.

“I think for any country to recover from the scale of this disaster — the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear power station issues — would be an incredible task,” said Yamauchi, a former British diplomat, in a telephone interview. “Yes, economically it’s been difficult the last sort of 10 to 15 years, but I think Japan will definitely rebound. I’ve been really struck by the dignity and strength people show despite all the suffering they are going through.”

Though governments and major relief organizations are, by nature, best equipped to address a problem of these proportions, numerous sports figures around the world are once again doing what they can to raise awareness and funds, with awareness at this stage clearly less of an issue.

The South Korean pitcher Park Chan-ho, now with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League, has donated ¥10 million, about $124,000. The South Korean soccer star Park Ji-sung, who plays for Manchester United but started his professional career in Japan, has pledged 100 million won, about $88,000.

In the United States, the New York Yankees donated $100,000 to relief efforts last week, and this week, Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and other Japanese players on the team joined Red Sox staff at the gates of the team’s spring-training stadium in Fort Myers, Florida, to encourage and collect donations from fans before games.

In Lenzerheide, Switzerland, site of the weather-bedeviled World Cup finals in Alpine skiing, several top racers, including Julia Mancuso of the United States and Didier Cuche of Switzerland, have pledged prize money to Japan relief and are attempting to mobilize their community on the Web site

In Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, at the world biathlon championships, the four members of the team that won the 30-kilometer relay for Norway last week, including the sport’s leading man, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, donated their prize money.

In Indian Wells, California, on Thursday, the world’s No. 1 tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and her friend and quarterfinal opponent Victoria Azarenka posed with a Japanese flag on which Wozniacki had written “Our thoughts are with you!” They then asked for the crowd to join them in a minute of silence.

There was also silence in Tignes, France on Wednesday before the SuperPipe final at the European edition of the Winter X Games, and more silence before the start of every UEFA club soccer competition match this week, including four in the Champions League.

There have been scores of other pauses for mourning and reflection, many other gestures large and small. Others are surely on the way: from Miami, site of the next major tennis tournament, to Seoul, where the South Korean national soccer team will donate a significant percentage of proceeds from a friendly match against Honduras on March 25.

The sports world is, after all, a mere subdivision of the wider, more daunting world. Though sports have often seemed much closer to a distraction than a welcome diversion at a time when the focus belongs on Japan, sports can remain relevant by helping to sharpen that focus.

Yamauchi feels more relevant now that she is encouraging her fellow runners to put on their spikes for a country she holds dear and where she and her husband, Shigetoshi Yamauchi, lived until just last week. They moved to Britain to be closer to Mara Yamauchi’s aging parents and to have access to top medical treatment as she attempts to recover from a lingering hamstring injury in time to challenge at next year’s Olympics in London (she was 6th in the Olympic marathon in Beijing).

“I left on the 24th of February and Shige left Japan and arrived here on the 10th of March,” Yamauchi said. “We went to sleep, woke up on Friday morning and got a call from my mother saying, ‘Put on the TV. There’s been a massive earthquake in Japan.”’

But though Yamauchi has now found a way to act as well as observe, she is not quite ready to be a full participant in her own relief campaign.

“I’m afraid I’m doing a walk for Japan tomorrow,” she said. “I wish I could do a run for Japan, but I’d get a telling off from my physio if I do that.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LA Marathon 2011 pre-race

as you know, i'm doing the Los Angeles Marathon 2011 this coming Sunday morning.

ordinarily i wouldn't have written much for the usual pre-race post, but there's a number of things that have suddenly made this race a little bit more interesting:
  • the weather forecast is for a storm, with expected conditions to be rain, wind, and temps of 55-60 degrees F (~12-18 degrees C)
  • the longest run i've done is 16 miles
  • in the past 3 weeks, i've only had 4 runs (in 5 workouts): 12 miles, 6 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles
  • my overall fitness routine went to hell, with (in succession within 2 weeks) a sprained ankle, a 4-day trip out-of-town, and an illness that took me out for an entire week
yeah. i know. exactly. nowhere near enough running. definitely not looking good.

finishing isn't the issue. that, i can most definitely ensure will happen. the issue is in what condition will i cross the finish line: happy or hurting or lost on the continuum somewhere in between? this race went from being a routine relaxed enjoyable day to an open question about how potentially miserable i'm going to be.

in response to these developments, i can identify a number of things to help assuage myself.

to begin, i think race conditions are probably a state of mind (you know: if you don't mind then it doesn't matter). not in the sense of being forcefully ignorant, but more in the sense of not obsessing to the point of losing perspective. i remember at Ironman New Zealand the assembled competitors roared out a collective cheer when the race organizers announced during the pre-race meal that there would be a freak storm on race day (freak, as in there were warm blue skies the day before, warm blue skies the day after, but race day was wet, windy, and cold enough to take people out with hypothermia...even the local Maoris were mystified at the weather). i came to love the Kiwi sense of humor in that moment.

i've taken that attitude to heart. race day is a long day, Ironman or marathon or whatever, and it's hard to ever find a day where conditions will be perfect for that amount of time. that, and weather is just one of those things that cannot be predicted with any accuracy in the full year organizers have to lead into the event. competitors just have to accept the weather as part of racing, and deal with it as part of any given race. which means that as much as we expect to enjoy race day, we need to enjoy the weather that comes with it. so right now, given the weather forecast, all i can say is HOOOOOO-RRRAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!!!

next, i'm keeping in my mind that my expectations for this race are not that high. i never looked at it as a competition for time. i signed up for this specific race with the goal of 1) getting to meet a larger community of recreational athletes and people learning about the benefits of physical activity, and 2) getting to follow a race course that gives me a pedestrian (in scale or pacing) view of major LA landmarks that people ordinarily NEVER see. so i never intended to do this for time, but more for experience.

to that end, i'd planned on carrying a camera to take pictures as i go, and i'd fully expected to walk long stretches of the race. i'm starting to waffle on the former and resign myself to the latter. but right now, i think i still will do the camera thing, and i guess i'll just be walking a little bit more than i'd originally planned.

last, i've done enough marathons (by themselves or within Ironmans) by now that it's not as big a deal as it was before, and so i'm not as fazed by it as a lot of the first-timers probably are. and the thought of 26.2 miles of running doesn't even register in my mind as anything comparable to the distances i've done (say, 140.6), so there's not even really any anxiety on my part.

to a degree, this race hasn't even really sunk in--it's like i'm aware of it but it doesn't even register. about all i can really say to describe my feeling right now is that i'm resigned to a nice Sunday morning social activity...maybe just a little windier, wetter, and colder than i'd originally expected.

of course, having said all this, it still takes a crowd to make a race day. and that means that a personal enjoyable race experience requires that i find people who i can cultivate a personal enjoyable race experience with--and who are willing to cultivate their personal enjoyable race experiences right back with me. attitudes are in good proportion a function of symbiotic collective interactions, and so i need to find other competitors with the same attitudes and expectations that i have.

i sure hope that happens. cuz it really sucks to feel lonely in a crowd of 20,000+ people.

so who out there is doing the Los Angeles Marathon 2011 with me? and just wants a good time (ok, that didn't sound quite right, but you know what i mean...i hope)? can you help a brutha out?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

exercise keeps you young?

most of us have been told at some point or another that exercise keeps you young. it's been part of our motivation to start and maintain a regular exercise regimen and follow an active lifestyle. for some of us, we've also made it a premise and a mantra that we recite to get others around us to become physically fit.

except that we've never really been clear as to whether this is true. we're not entirely sure how or why it does so. sure, we can see and feel that the invigoration of fitness in ways encompassing all facets of our lives (i.e., physical, mental, spiritual). but we are not entirely sure as to the biological (i.e., scientific) mechanisms that enable the beneficial results of fitness.

well, here's an article that helps explain why:
the article presents to a lay audience the findings of recent research. for your convenience, i've put the full text of the article at the end of this post. the article refers to the following scholarly research paper (those of you who are academics can probably locate it for free off your school library electronic resources):
essentially, the findings of the research indicate that regular physical exercise seems to improve or prolong the operation of mitochondria. mitochondria are the components of cells responsible for generating energy, and in the human body operate to drive oxygen and nutrients through the biochemical reactions that release energy necessary for cells to function.

as most athletes with any level of scientific curiousity know, mitochondrial health is a key element of cellular health, and cellular health is a building block of overall health. without healthy mitochondria, cells decay, and on a sufficient scale in sufficient magnitude this leads to overall physical breakdown, with all the symptoms that we typically associate with severe aging: weakness (deterioration in muscle and connective tissue), loss of coordination (deterioration in neural pathways), shallow breathing (deterioration in cardiovascular systems), lack of energy (deterioration in ability to process oxygen and food into energy), difficulty thinking or remembering (deterioration in brain activity).

athletes know of the concept of overtraining, where too much training can lead to a physical state of prolonged exhaustion and continued weakness. this arises from physical activity that overwhelms the mitochondrial systems of cells beyond their ability to repair themselves. that "worn out" or "being ground into the ground" feeling is literally the mitochondria in cells being worn out and ground into oblivion.

what's interesting about the research here is that it shows that proper physical exercise somehow sustains mitochondria. in fact, in some ways, it actually makes them resistant to decay. as a result, it shows that there is a link between physical fitness and the avoidance of physical deterioration. of course, this leaves the question as to why exercise serves to preserve mitochondria, and so sets the direction for subsequent study.

something to note here is what kind of physical exercise is appropriate to stay young. sports science knows that overtraining is bad for mitochondria, and it is clear from the research that a sedentary or easy lifestyle is also bad for mitochondria. the journal comments that it involved the study of aerobic strenuous activity--the kind of activity that in most sports forms the foundation of athletic conditioning, and which is endemic to endurance sports. the journal observes that further research is warranted to see if other kinds of physical activity can have the same result, but its findings show that at the very least we need to be engaged in 1) aerobic and 2) strenuous physical exercise to sustain mitochondria and thereby forestall the effects of aging.

it's interesting to compare the research findings here with the commentaries of other sources available on-line:
as these links show, on a general level, we've all believed for some time that exercise keeps us young. but now at least there's research that provides us with some scientific understanding as to why. this provides with more assurance that an active lifestyle is a good thing for us and our acquaintances. so get to it!

Can Exercise Keep You Young?
Gretchen Reynolds
New York Times
March 2, 2011

We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely.
Getty Images

But shiny fur was the least of its benefits. Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.

In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells — they are microscopic power generators.

Mitochrondria have their own DNA, distinct from the cell’s own genetic material, and they multiply on their own. But in the process, mitochondria can accumulate small genetic mutations, which under normal circumstances are corrected by specialized repair systems within the cell. Over time, as we age, the number of mutations begins to outstrip the system’s ability to make repairs, and mitochondria start malfunctioning and dying.

Many scientists consider the loss of healthy mitochondria to be an important underlying cause of aging in mammals. As resident mitochondria falter, the cells they fuel wither or die. Muscles shrink, brain volume drops, hair falls out or loses its pigmentation, and soon enough we are, in appearance and beneath the surface, old.

The mice that Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lacked the primary mitochondrial repair mechanism, so they developed malfunctioning mitochondria early in their lives, as early as 3 months of age, the human equivalent of age 20. By the time they reached 8 months, or their early 60s in human terms, the animals were extremely frail and decrepit, with spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy, graying fur. Listless, they barely moved around their cages. All were dead before reaching a year of age.

Except the mice that exercised.

Half of the mice were allowed to run on a wheel for 45 minutes three times a week, beginning at 3 months. These rodent runners were required to maintain a fairly brisk pace, Dr. Tarnopolsky said: “It was about like a person running a 50- or 55-minute 10K.” (A 10K race is 6.2 miles.) The mice continued this regimen for five months.

At 8 months, when their sedentary lab mates were bald, frail and dying, the running rats remained youthful. They had full pelts of dark fur, no salt-and-pepper shadings. They also had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume. Their gonads were normal, as were their hearts. They could balance on narrow rods, the showoffs.

But perhaps most remarkable, although they still harbored the mutation that should have affected mitochondrial repair, they had more mitochondria over all and far fewer with mutations than the sedentary mice had. At 1 year, none of the exercising mice had died of natural causes. (Some were sacrificed to compare their cellular health to that of the unexercised mice, all of whom were, by that age, dead.)

The researchers were surprised by the magnitude of the impact that exercise had on the animals’ aging process, Dr. Tarnopolsky said. He and his colleagues had expected to find that exercise would affect mitochondrial health in muscles, including the heart, since past research had shown a connection. They had not expected that it would affect every tissue and bodily system studied.

Other studies, including a number from Dr. Tarnopolsky’s own lab, have also found that exercise affects the course of aging, but none has shown such a comprehensive effect. And precisely how exercise alters the aging process remains unknown. In this experiment, running resulted in an upsurge in the rodents’ production of a protein known as PGC-1alpha, which regulates genes involved in metabolism and energy creation, including mitochondrial function. Exercise also sparked the repair of malfunctioning mitochondria through a mechanism outside the known repair pathway; in these mutant mice, that pathway didn’t exist, but their mitochondria were nonetheless being repaired.

Dr. Tarnopolsky is currently overseeing a number of experiments that he expects will help to elucidate the specific physiological mechanisms. But for now, he said, the lesson of his experiment and dozens like it is unambiguous. “Exercise alters the course of aging,” he said.

Although in this experiment, the activity was aerobic and strenuous, Dr. Tarnopolsky is not convinced that either is absolutely necessary for benefits. Studies of older humans have shown that weightlifting can improve mitochondrial health, he said, as can moderate endurance exercise. Although there is probably a threshold amount of exercise that is necessary to affect physiological aging, Dr. Tarnopolsky said, “anything is better than nothing.” If you haven’t been active in the past, he continued, start walking five minutes a day, then begin to increase your activity level.

The potential benefits have attractions even for the young. While Dr. Tarnopolsky, a lifelong athlete, noted with satisfaction that active, aged mice kept their hair, his younger graduate students were far more interested in the animals’ robust gonads. Their testicles and ovaries hadn’t shrunk, unlike those of sedentary elderly mice.

Dr. Tarnopolsky’s students were impressed. “I think they all exercise now,” he said.