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Better Late Than Never for Exercise

Seniors Can Still Get Healthier With Exercise

Long-Term Commitment continued...

The exercise group fared best across the board. Their gains included:

  • Higher fitness level. A small increase in fitness was seen in the exercise group, compared with a 13% drop in that of the sedentary group.
  • Lower prevalence of risk factors linked to heart disease. Metabolic syndrome was seen in 11% of the exercise group, compared to 28% of the sedentary group after 10 years. Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and can lead to type 2 diabetes. The risks include excess body fat (especially around the waist), high blood fat (triglycerides), high blood pressure, and low HDL "good" cholesterol.
  • Fewer signs and symptoms of heart disease during exercise.
  • Fewer illnesses besides heart disease (comorbid conditions).
  • Increase in HDL "good" cholesterol. A 9% increase in HDL occurred in the exercise group, compared with an 18% drop in the sedentary group.

The numbers of participants who died of heart problems or entered a nursing home during the study were very small in both groups, but the active group had a slight edge.

Seven exercise participants entered a nursing home, compared with 16 from the sedentary group.

Four deaths in the exercise group stemmed from the heart, compared with six in the sedentary group.

Other Influences?

Like exercise, diet can make a big difference in health. But the study didn't track how participants ate. No one knew what the adults were putting on their plates.

It's also possible that because the exercise group wanted to work out instead of being told to, they might be a bit different from other people. The researchers say they tried to take that into account, but that wasn't their main focus.

"It was not the objective of this study to test the multifaceted issues of exercise adoption and maintenance in the community, but rather to determine how older individuals who self-selected participation in an exercise training program differed in terms of metabolic risk from those who did not," write Robert Petrella, MD, PhD, and colleagues.

Their study appears in the March issue of Diabetes Care.

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