Exercise: Better late than never
It’s never too late to reap the health benefits of regular exercise, even if you don’t start until your mid-sixties, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Researchers followed nearly 3,500 people for eight years. Every two years, the participants – whose average age was 64 – answered questions about their physical activity level and were administered tests to assess their mental health and cognitive abilities.
At the end of the study, those who survived without developing a major chronic disease, depressive symptoms, and physical or cognitive impairments were defined as “healthy agers.” Nineteen percent of the participants fell into this category and a direct connection between major health problems and physical activity emerged, the researchers said.
Participants who had been exercising regularly every week and continued to do so throughout the study were seven times more likely to be a healthy ager. Moreover, even those who only took up exercise after the study began were three times more likely to be among the healthy agers compared to those that remained inactive.
“In a growing elderly population, healthy aging is becoming a crucial factor to reduce the burden of disease and disability and related health care costs,” the researchers wrote in the study. “Emerging evidence suggests that regular physical activity is among the most important lifestyle factors for maintenance of good health at older ages.”
“If you haven’t been exercising, it’s important to remember to start slowly,” says Teresa Beckman, a physical therapist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “You can gradually increase duration and intensity over time, but always listen to your body.”
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