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It’s Never to Late to Start: Getting Active Later in Life Promotes Healthy Aging

Update Date: Nov 26, 2013 09:42 AM EST

The combination of exercise and healthy eating is vital in maintaining a good lifestyle. Several studies have found that exercise for people of all ages leads to physical and mental benefits. In a new study, researchers reported that it is never too late to start exercising. This study found that people who started and stuck to an exercise regime later on in life were more likely to age healthily than people who did not.

For this study, researchers from the University College London and the Montreal Behavioral Medicine Center monitored the health status of around 3,500 people. The participants were from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, which gathered information that was nationally representative of England. The participants were born on or before February 29, 1952 and had an average age of 64. The researchers observed the people's exercise routines and their risk of developing mental illnesses such as dementia and depression.

"In a growing elderly population, healthy ageing is becoming a crucial factor to reduce the burden of disease and disability and related healthcare costs," the study wrote reported by HealthDay. "Emerging evidence suggests that regular physical activity is among the most important lifestyle factors for maintenance of good health at older ages."

The researchers discovered that over the span of four years, nine percent of the people continued to be inactive, 12 percent became inactive, 70 percent stayed active and nine percent started to be active. The researches defined active as participating in moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week on a weekly basis. For seniors, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two-and-a-half hours of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise twice a week.

After tracking the participants for a total of eight years, the researchers reported that four out of 10 people were diagnosed with a long-term illness. One in five developed depression, one in five could be considered cognitively impaired and one-third had some kind of disability. On the other hand, one in five ended up aging healthily. The team found a link between healthy agers and exercise level. The researchers calculated that remaining active or starting to become active later on in life increases one's chance of aging healthily by up to seven times when compared to people who were inactive.

"Importantly, we demonstrate, for the first time, that participants who remained physically active through follow-up were most likely to age successfully, although participants who took up activity during the follow-up period were also more likely to remain healthy compared with those who were inactive throughout," the authors wrote.

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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