People who become physically active later in life are showing exercise benefits comparable to those who are physically active throughout their lifetime.
This study showing the amazing benefit of exercise — no matter what age you start — was published earlier this year by the JAMA Network.
The researchers of this study looked at more than 300,000 participants and divided them up into three different groups: those who started as inactive and became active later in life, those who were active and became sedentary and those active over their lifespan.
It’s easy to guess those that were active throughout their life fared the best in terms of lower cardiovascular and cancer risk, but interestingly, those who became active in later years lowered their mortality rates just as much.
There were more interesting tidbits to pull from this study. Adults who increased their activity rates in their 40s-60s lowered their cardiovascular mortality risk by 32-35 percent.
Furthermore, cancer related mortality was reduced by 14 percent.
Unfortunately, people who started off active but became sedentary lost almost all of the benefit of physical activity completed in their earlier years.
Finally, we don’t want to leave out those who have been consistently active.
The active cohort maintained a lower cardiovascular mortality risk by 25 percent compared to the sedentary group.
Now that you are motivated to either start exercising or maintain your physical activity levels, let’s put some numbers on how much time you should put in per week.
National guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. If you break down those numbers into manageable amounts you have 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of rigorous exercise five days a week.
Some examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, gardening, dancing and lifting moderately heavy weights. On the other hand, more intense exercise would include running, fast biking, swimming, heavy snow or dirt shoveling and heavy weight lifting.
Because of the information being a bit dense this time around, I wanted to summarize a few take-home points for you:
— Maintaining and increasing physical activity lowers risk of mortality
— Midlife is not too late to start physical activity
— If you are already active, maintaining that level will keep your mortality risk low
Andrea Ancel is a Physical Therapist at Northern Michigan Sports Medicine Center in Petoskey and Harbor Springs. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This information is not to be considered medical advice and is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional.