Use It or Lose It?
New research confirms that it’s never too late to reap the benefits of exercise. After four years of regular activity, older people were far more likely to be healthy than their peers who remained inactive.
Of course, plenty of evidence has shown that staying active at any age is one of the keys to a long, productive and healthy life. But many older people assume it’s okay to become less active as they age. Slowing down and accepting physical limitations is normal, according to this thinking, so one shouldn’t expect otherwise.
But this new research proves in fairly dramatic fashion that that line of thinking is flawed. In reality, staying active as one ages is clearly linked to better health and mobility, especially in the retirement years and beyond. Even if a person was never particularly fond of exercise, he or she can still benefit from becoming more physically active in later life. That was the conclusion of a recent study conducted in England, which monitored the health of more than 3,000 retirement-age men and women, for eight years.
People who exercised at moderate or vigorous intensity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to remain healthy than their peers who were inactive. One could argue that that’s not particularly surprising. After all, the benefits of regular exercise are hardly secret. Goodness, knows, I’ve been talking about the health benefits of exercise for years. But the truly striking finding here was that older folks who had never been particularly active before, who took up exercise in their mid-60s or later still enjoyed “significant health benefits” compared to people who remained inactive. Active people avoided serious conditions like depression, dementia, and other common age-related diseases.
So there you have it. Even a lifetime of inactivity is no excuse. It’s never too late to start exercising and reaping the health benefits.
M. Hamer, K. L. Lavoie, S. L. Bacon. Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: the English longitudinal study of ageing. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092993