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 aging 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 aging threefold, the researchers said.
“In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age,” says lead researcher Mark Hamer.
“Encouraging physical activity in older adults is of benefit, and small changes are also linked to healthier aging,” he says.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, says 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 says.
“What this study emphasizes is that the ‘I’m too old’ excuse doesn’t fly, because it is never too late to get your fanny off the couch and out the door for some exercise,” she says.
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 aging and mental decline, Heller says.
Partnering with someone is a real motivator, Heller says.
“Give a session with a qualified personal trainer as a holiday gift; explore fitness-class offerings at the local YMCA or community or senior centers; or sign up for a charity walk, run or swim.”
People who partake in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week are three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remain inactive, the researchers found.
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.
Information from medicinenet.com, provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.