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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 17:24 EDT

Study Highlights Benefits Of Exercising After Age 50

March 6, 2009

A Swedish study published on Friday suggests that people who begin exercising at the age of 50 can still benefit from physical activity, although the effects may take 10 years to start showing, Reuters reported.

Researchers from Uppsala University said that men who began exercising after the age of 50 had the same life expectancy after 10 years as men who had exercised throughout their life.

The study followed 2,205 Swedish men for more than 20 years from the age of 50, who were placed into low, medium and high activity groups.

Around 50 percent of the volunteers reported a high level of exercise, corresponding to at least three hours of sport or heavy gardening each week.

The researchers wrote in the British Medical Journal that a third of the men said they exercised moderately, such as taking walks and cycling, while the rest did little or no exercise.

For those who waited until later in life to start physical activity, exercise made no difference in premature death rates for at least a decade, the study found.

Liisa Byberg, a researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden, told Reuters Health that hitting the half-decade mark doesn’t mean it’s too late to start physical activity.

“It has been shown that young people benefit from exercise but this is the first time we have been able to show that old people can also benefit as well,” she said.

The authors wrote that increased physical activity in middle age is eventually followed by a reduction in mortality to the same level as seen among men with constantly high physical activity.

During the first five years of the study, death rates were highest among the sedentary group and lowest among the most active volunteers. However, after 10 years, people who began exercising at 50 had similar death rates to people in the high activity group.

“This reduction is comparable with that associated with smoking cessation,” the report said. Byberg said that while there is an effect, there is a bit of a delay.

“These results are very interesting,” said Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health. “It shows that it is never too late to start exercising. I think this period is very important for men and what is probably happening here is that the exercise during these years is strengthening their cardiovascular system.”

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