It's Never Too Late To Start Exercising For Your Health: Study
November 27, 2013

It’s Never Too Late To Start Exercising For Your Health: Study

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

If you think you’re too old to start exercising, think again. New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that becoming physically active in your sixties could help keep you from becoming seriously ill and may even ward off dementia.

According to a BBC News report, the study followed nearly 3,500 healthy men and women with an average age of 64 and found that those who started exercising were three times more likely to remain in good health over the next eight years versus their senior counterparts who remained sedentary.

Furthermore, becoming active was found to reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and depression. Those who were less active were also more likely to struggle with bathing, getting dressed and other day-to-day activities, the study authors reported.

Lead investigator Dr. Mark Hamer, from University College London, and his colleagues set out to quantify the effects of exercise when it comes to healthy aging, which, according to the researchers, involves not only the absence of serious illnesses and physical disabilities, but also good mental health, the lack of cognitive decline and the ability to remain socially active.

Dr. Hamer’s team explains that there is mounting evidence suggesting that regular physical activity is vital for people to maintain their overall well-being at any age. Throughout the developed world, they add, inactivity is listed alongside smoking, alcohol abuse and obesity as one of the primary causes of reduced life expectancy.

The men and women taking part in the study detailed the frequency and activity of their physical activity in 2002-03, and then repeated the process every two years through 2010-11. They described themselves as being inactive, moderately active or vigorously active during the initial session, then were placed in one of four categories (always inactive, became inactive, became active or always active) during the follow-up sessions.

Instances of health disease, stroke, diabetes, emphysema or other serious illnesses were confirmed using medical records, while overall cognitive ability and mental health were tested using a battery of validated tests. Almost 10 percent of the sample group became active, and 70 percent remained active, the researchers said.

At the end of the monitoring period, nearly 40 percent of the study participants had developed a long-term condition. Nearly 20 percent were depressed, 20 percent were cognitively impaired, and one-third had some form of disability. However, one in five was deemed to be a healthy ager and Dr. Hamer and his associates discovered a direct link to the likelihood of healthy aging with the overall amount of exercise completed.

“Those who had regularly indulged in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers than those who had remained inactive, after taking account of other influential factors,” the researchers said. “Those who became physically active also reaped benefits, compared with those who did nothing. They were more than three times as likely to be healthy agers.”

Additionally, those who sustained regular physical activity throughout the entire research period were reportedly seven times more likely to be healthy agers than those who were sedentary throughout.

“The take-home message,” Dr. Hamer told the BBC, “really is to keep moving when you are elderly… it's a case of use it or lose it. You do lose the benefits if you don't remain active.”