50+ health * Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Exercise can help you live longer

its never too late to start And it's never too late to start, says new study

We all know that we should exercise regularly but most of us sadly don't.

But a new study shows that it is never too late to start. It seems older people who take regular exercise tend to live longer, be more healthy, and even less lonely.

The study looked at the lifestyles and health of over 1,000 people born on between 1920 and 1921.

The participants were evaluated at ages 70, 78 and 85. Those who performed less than four hours of exercise a week were classified as "sedentary". The others were considered to be physically active.

Effects on lifespan

There was a clear effect on the lifespan of the participants. Compared to the sedentary, the physically active were:

  • 12 percent less likely to die between ages 70 and 78
  • 15 percent less likely to die between ages 78 and 85
  • 17 percent less likely to die between ages 85 and 88

Social effect

An interesting finding was that the physically active were much less likely to report incidents of loneliness. Again compared to the non-active group the figures were:

  • 12.2 percent vs. 22.6 percent from ages 70 to 78
  • 26.5 percent vs. 44.1 percent from ages 78 to 85

Never too late

The beneficial effects of exercise were seen even in those who only began being physically active between the ages of 70 and 85.

The authors comment: "Physical activity is a modifiable behavior associated with health, functional status and longevity, and encouraging a physically active lifestyle has become an accepted public health goal." Noting that most studies to date have focussed on the middle aged, they add: "As this rapidly growing sector of the population assumes a prominent position in preventive and public health measures, our findings clearly support the continued encouragement of physical activity, even among the oldest old. Indeed, it seems that it is never too late to start."

The study was carried out by researchers in Jerusalem and published in the September edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

This article was published on Tue 15 September 2009

Image © kristian sekulic - Fotolia.com

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