Middle Age Physical Activity Determines Old Age Physical Ability

A study from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, UK, has found a direct link between levels of physical activity in middle age and physical ability later in life - regardless of body weight. Individuals unable to maintain a certain level of physical activity in middle age were less likely to be able to walk distances, climb stairs, maintain balance, stand from a seated position with arms folded, or sustain their hand grip as they aged. Among men and women aged 50 to 69 years across all weight ranges, physical ability later in life was half that among those who were more physically active.

The study included over 8,500 participants in the US Health and Retirement Study and 1,500 people taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Each subject was followed for up to six years. Although being overweight or obese is associated with an overall risk of physical impairment, people who engaged in heavy housework or gardening or who played a sport or maintained a physically active job, were more likely to remain mobile later in life, regardless of weight.

Physical activity of about 30 minutes, three or more times a week, resulted in a lower than 13 percent risk of developing a form of disability. This rate increased to 24 percent insubjects who were less active. Head researcher, Dr. Iain Lang, concludes, "Exercise in middle age does not just benefit people in terms of weight loss - it also helps them to remain physically healthy and active later in life."


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