Even if you’re over 50, you might still prolong your life by starting an exercise program. But Swedish researchers have found that the positive effects don’t happen immediately; it takes about 10 years for the life-enhancing effect to appear. The Swedish study kept track of 2,205 men for more than 20 years, beginning at age 50. Researchers divided them into groups based on exercise levels. In the first five years of the study, death rates were lowest among those who exercised the most. But some men started to exercise between 50 and 60. After 10 years, their death rates were as low as those of men who had exercised all along. Exercise made as big a difference in death rates as quitting smoking, researchers said.
Exercise saves lives
More than 2,000 men were studied and asked about their physical activities. They were first examined and questioned at age 50, and then four more times between ages 60 and 82. The researchers found that men who were inactive had the highest death rates. Those men who were already very active were least likely to die in the follow-up period.
But the most interesting results pertained to men who had been inactive, but began to exercise during the course of the study. For these men, exercising regularly for 10 years or more decreased their death rates. This study looked only at men, but it is reasonable to think that women could also see similar benefits.
So now we know that beginning regular exercise in middle age eventually can lead to a longer and probably better life. So start moving. It is never too late to become physically active.
Where to start
If you don’t exercise, now may be a good time to begin. It might add years to your life. It probably will make you feel better as well.
~Check with your doctor if you have questions about safely starting an exercise program. This is very important if you are older, have been inactive, or have medical problems. But remember that the greatest risk might be not exercising at all, so once your doctor gives you the green light, get started.
~Make the commitment to exercise. It takes patience and hard work, but also provides many rewards, both physical and mental.
~Set your exercise goals and plan your program. What do you want to do? What do you like to do? Think about what types of exercise will work with your lifestyle, your job, and your family. Remember to start with a warm-up, and end with a cool-down and stretching.
~Include activity to increase your heart and lung fitness (aerobic exercise), endurance, flexibility and muscle strength. All are important for your overall fitness and longevity.
~Aim to exercise at least three times a week, preferably more. If you already do mild exercise a few times a week, try exercising every day.
~Once you are doing moderate daily exercise, try bursts of more intense activity. This is known as “interval training.” This is very good for your heart and blood vessels.
~Be careful when exercising in extremely hot weather. It’s better to wait until the temperature cools down or to exercise in an air-conditioned space.
If you decide to begin a regular exercise program, you can certainly hope to live longer and live better. And if you really do make exercise a regular part of your daily life, you probably will learn to love it!
Courtesy of Harvard Medical School
Focus on Healthy Living