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It's never too late to reap the benefits of exercising

November 27, 2013

Older adults who haven't been physically active all their lives may think it's too late for them to reap the benefits of exercise, but a new study looking into healthy aging suggests otherwise. Researchers from University College London recently found that even if adults pick up an exercise regimen in their 60s, it can help them stave off major disease, disability or cognitive decline, according to results published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Never too late
The study certainly isn't the first to uncover the health benefits of exercise, but it might help older adults rethink their approach to healthy living. To arrive at their conclusion, researchers looked at the well-being of more than 3,500 people with an average age of 64. Participants described how often they exercised every two years from 2002 to 2011. Those who were physically active before the study were about seven times more likely to enjoy healthy aging compared to those who weren't active. Similarly, those who picked up a regimen during the study were still three times more likely to be healthy agers.

"This study supports public health initiatives designed to engage older adults in physical activity, even those who are of advanced age," the researchers wrote in the paper.

Improved quality
Not only does exercising add years to senior living, but it can also improve the quality of those years, according to a study published in September. The results, based on an extensive analysis of more than 12,000 people from Australia, found that older adults who met the 150-minute threshold of aerobic activity each week were less likely to run into cognitive health issues and managed to avoid depressive symptoms. Much like the most recent findings, these results even applied to those who picked up a regimen later in life.

What exercises are best?
Arthritis can present challenges to seniors looking to stay active, but if they choose the right exercise - one that's doesn't put too much pressure on their joints - they can still reap the benefits. Water aerobics and swimming are popular choices, but activities such as yoga and tai chi might be particularly helpful. Most notably, they can improve balance, strength and flexibility, all of which are critical to an active lifestyle.