60-Second Health

Older Couch Potatoes Benefit from Even a Little Exercise

Middle-aged to elderly adults with no history of exercising still saw significant health benefits from even small additions of regular physical activity to their schedules. Dina Fine Maron reports

Even if you waited til midlife or later, it still pays to get your body moving—because a study of about 3,400 people between the ages of 54 and 73 found that even moderate physical activity just once a week was associated with less physical and mental impairment.

Researchers tracked British adults for eight years. Even new moderate movers were about three times more likely to age free of major chronic disease or mental deterioration than were inactive adults. The findings are in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. [Mark Hamer, Kim L. Lavoie and Simon L. Bacon, Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: the English longitudinal study of ageing]

Adults who were already active at the start of the study were even better off. Four years after being initially evaluated, they were seven times more likely to be healthy than inactive people. That’s even after accounting for differences in age, sex, smoking, wealth, alcohol intake and marital status.

And since people tend to report more exercise than they really do, actually engaging in physical activity may boost health even more than we know.

So even if you haven’t exercised since you passed your last high school gym class—in 1970—you can benefit by getting off the couch.

—Dina Fine Maron

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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