A new study finds that exercise
among older adults helps ward off depression, dementia and other health
problems, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Exercise increased the odds of
healthy ageing as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it's
never too late to start: Even adults who don't begin exercising until they're
older could increase their odds of healthy ageing threefold, the researchers
"In a growing elderly
population, it is important to encourage healthy ageing. Physical activity is
effective in maintaining health in old age," said lead researcher Mark
Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University
College London, in England.
"Encourageing physical activity
in older adults is of benefit, and small changes are also linked to healthier
ageing," he said.
The report was published online in
the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
You're never too old to exercise
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical
nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New
York City, said it's well known that physical activity and exercise are good
for you. "Regular exercise staves off chronic diseases like cancer, heart
disease, diabetes and depression," she said.
"What this study emphasises is
that the 'I'm too old' excuse doesn't fly, because it is never too late to get
your backside off the couch and out the door for some exercise," she said.
The benefits of exercise include
better circulation and improved bone, muscle, cardiovascular and organ health.
Even the brain benefits from regular exercise, which increases communication
between neurons and slows the brain tissue loss associated with ageing and
mental decline, Heller said.
"The question we face now is,
How do we motivate and support people of all ages to get moving and keep
moving? There is an undeniable resistance among non-exercisers to the notion of
motion," Heller said. "On an individual level, we can gently insist
that family and friends join us in regular walks, a dance or yoga class, a game
of tag, or an exercise DVD."
Partnering with someone is a real
motivator, Heller said. "Give a session with a qualified personal trainer
as a holiday gift; explore fitness-class offerings at the local YMCA or
community or senior centres; or sign up for a charity walk, run or swim."
For the study, Hamer and his
colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who
took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
As part of the study, the
participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between
2002-'03 and 2010-'11.
The researchers categorised the
participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were
inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.
In addition, the researchers kept
track of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes,
emphysema and Alzheimer's disease. They also monitored the participants' mental
health and physical.
Over eight years, almost one in 10
participants became active and 70% remained active. The others stayed inactive
or became inactive.
By the end of the study, almost 40% of
the participants developed a chronic medical condition, nearly 20% were
depressed, 20% were mentally impaired and one-third had a disability.
One in five, however, was considered
by the researchers to be a "healthy ager". There was a direct
association between healthy ageing and exercise, the researchers said, although
they did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
People who partook in moderate or
vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more
likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the
Moreover, people who were active at
the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than
people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.
For more on the benefits of
exercise, visit the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.