Numerous have reported that regular physical activity is associated with improved overall health, and midlife exercise is a key anti-aging component.
Mark Hamer and colleagues, from the University College London, in the United Kingdom, assessed data collected on 3,454 healthy senior men and women who were enrolled in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
The subjects reported how much they exercised at the start of the study, with researchers following them via regular health surveys for the next eight years. At follow-up, 90 percent of the subjects were considered to be healthy agers, as they did not develop any major chronic diseases and had not experienced deterioration of their physical or mental status during the study period. The men and women who were active at least once a week at the study’s start and remained active were the most likely to remain healthy as they aged.
Additionally, those who started exercising during the study period enjoyed health benefits as well: They were three times more likely than inactive adults to age well.
Overall, men and women who remained active during the full eight years of the study were more than seven times more likely to be aging well. “Sustained physical activity in older age is associated with improved overall health,” the authors observed, concluding, “Significant health benefits were even seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life.”
Hamer, M., et al. (2013). Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: the English longitudinal study of ageing. Br J Sports Med. Published online ahead of press, November 25.
—Dr. Bob Goldman
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