A recent study published in November, 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine followed 3,500 healthy people at or around retirement age.
- Those who took up exercise were three times more likely to remain healthy over the next eight years than their sedentary peers.
- Exercise cut the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
“The take-home message really is to keep moving when you are elderly,” says Dr Mark Hamer, lead researcher.
The study focussed on the effects of taking up physical activity later in life and examined the association between physical activity and healthy ageing over 8?years of follow-up.
Participants were 3454 initially disease-free men and women (aged 63.7±8.9?years at baseline) from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a prospective study of community dwelling older adults. Self-reported physical activity was assessed at baseline (2002–2003) and through follow-up. Healthy ageing, assessed at 8?years of follow-up (2010-2011), was defined as those participants who survived without developing major chronic disease, depressive symptoms, physical or cognitive impairment.
At follow-up, 19.3% of the sample was defined as healthy ageing. In comparison with inactive participants, moderate (OR, 2.67, 95% CI 1.95 to 3.64), or vigorous activity (3.53, 2.54 to 4.89) at least once a week was associated with healthy ageing, after adjustment for age, sex, smoking, alcohol, marital status and wealth. Becoming active (multivariate adjusted, 3.37, 1.67 to 6.78) or remaining active (7.68, 4.18 to 14.09) was associated with healthy ageing in comparison with remaining inactive over follow-up.
“Sustained physical activity in older age is associated with improved overall health. Significant health benefits were even seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life.”...
Lead investigator Dr Mark Hamer, from University College London, said: “The take-home message really is to keep moving when you are elderly.
In the study, 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, even after taking into account factors such as smoking.
Dr Hamer says physical activity does not necessarily mean going to the gym or going for a run – gardening or walking to the shops also counts.
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