Science - July 18, 2016

Hundred oldest people at Vierdaagse monitored by researchers

Text:
Rob Ramaker

Scientists from Wageningen and Nijmegen are going to monitor the hundred oldest people participating in the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, a long distance hiking event. Where does their vitality come from?

Photo: Jamie McCaffrey

On Tuesday morning, the 100th edition of the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse will kick off. Besides the 42.000 hikers present, researchers from the Wageningen University and the Radboud University will also start their journey. During the event they will monitor the hundred oldest participants. Their goal is to find out why these people between 82 and 93 years old are physically able to participate, whilst most people of their age are not.                        

The team is supervised by Maria Hopman. She is a professor integrative physiology at the Radboud Universiteit and visiting professor at Wageningen University. Her team is going to track the hiking elderly in specific areas. Physical traits like walking speed, muscle force generation and also fluid balance will be monitored. The scientists will also look at the heart rate and mental capacity of the senior hikers.

The Vierdaagse hikers are a positive control group
Lisette de Groot, professor Nutrition and Age

From Wageningen's side, the focus is on the intake of nutrition and data of blood values, says Lisette de Groot, professor Nutrition and Age. Three of her PhD students are collaborating with her on the experiment. De Groot knows a lot about the food intake of elderly in nursing homes from prior research. ‘The participants of the Vierdaagse are a positive control group of people which means that they are aging well. We are curious what the difference is with the negative control group.’

The comparison experiment is a good example of exploratory research, says De Groot. The team will look at the differences unbiased. And with follow-up research the data can be analized.

Scientists have performed research at the Vierdaagse during the past ten editions. Many of the existing research track with a focus on hikers in general will continue this year. For example, a group of hiking participants will be monitered on various aspects and compared to a non-hiking negative control group.


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