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Physical activity is the key to longer life

09/30/2009 - Articles

Physical activity is the key to longer life

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

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Physical activity is known to be important in preserving physical and mental health.  But the benefits of physical activity among older adults are not well defined – maybe because some older adults are affected by disability which prevents them from exercise.  Also, older adults may just expect to slow down and do less physical activity.  Most research to date on physical activity has focused upon middle-aged adults.

Researchers at the Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem studied a group of nearly 2,000 older adults and asked them about their levels of physical activity.  They underwent assessment in their homes at the ages of 70,78 and 85 years.  Those performing less than four hours a week of physical activity were considered sedentary, while those who exercised for more than four hours a week, doing vigorous activities like jogging or swimming at least twice a week or who engaged in regular physical activity were considered as physically active.


The researchers learned that 53.4% of the participants were physically active at age 70, 76.9% at age 77 and 64% at age 85.  Compared with those who were sedentary, those who indulged in physical activity were 12% less likely to die between age 70 and 78, 15% less likely to die between age 78 and 85 and 17% less likely to die between age 85 and 88.  In other words, physical activity prolongs your life! Those with the higher physical activity levels were also more likely to be independent and were less likely to be lonely or have poor self-rated health. 


What is more, the benefits of physical activity were found not just in those who had always been fit.  Those who took up a physical activity between the ages of 70 and 85 also showed benefits.  The mechanisms by which physical activity helps health and longevity are likely multifactorial but it is clear that it can slow down the ‘spiral of decline’ so often seen in aging.  This may happen via reducing fat, keeping up muscle mass, improving heart health and also boosting immunity.  Therefore, it is never too late to take up physical activity and start reaping its benefits.

Source:

Stessman J et al Physical activity, longevity and function in the very old Archives of Internal Medicine September 14 2009;169:1476-1483

 

 

Created on: 09/30/2009
Reviewed on: 09/30/2009

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