Better Late Than Never for Exercise
Seniors Can Still Get Healthier With Exercise
March 18, 2005 -- It's never too late to benefit from exercise, a new study
Regular exercise is universally recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle.
It's repeatedly been shown to help hearts, challenge muscles, improve mood,
lower stress, and burn calories. Weight-bearing exercise can also build
stronger bones, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
But what if you've been a little slack about exercise -- or downright
sedentary? Does your window of opportunity slide shut as the years gather? If
you haven't laced up your sneakers in decades, should you just skip it and
leave working out to the young?
Absolutely not, say Canadian researchers. Exercise can help people well into
their golden years, they say.
No matter how many candles are on your birthday cake -- or how long you sat
on the sidelines -- it's to your advantage to get moving to the best of your
ability, the study suggests.
A decade of data backs the Canadian study. That's how long researchers
monitored two groups of adults aged 55-75, watching for changes in fitness
levels, heart disease risk factors, and other health problems.
When the study started, all participants were sedentary but healthy. Fitness
and medical tests showed that they were roughly in the same shape. However,
there was one key difference among them -- initiative.
Some adults took it upon themselves to contact the Canadian Center for
Activity and Aging. They asked to sign up for a supervised exercise program.
Those adults (266 people) hadn't been ordered to do so by a doctor; it was
their personal choice, not part of rehabilitation.
The other 420 participants were randomly chosen from the same community.
They hadn't voiced any interest in a formal exercise program. The researchers
used them as a comparison group. Those adults were free to be as active as they
wanted, but they weren't part of the structured exercise group.
The bar was set high for the exercise group. They attended three weekly
aerobic sessions per week, jogging or walking for 30-45 minutes each time. The
workouts were vigorous.
Participants were expected to make it to at least 80% of the available
sessions. The proportion of participants meeting that standard for at least
eight out of 10 years was "very high," say the researchers.
At follow-up, 161 active and 136 sedentary people were studied. There was no
difference in drop-outs between the groups, say the researchers. Most of the
exercise group met their criteria.
That's rare. "In our experience and supported in the literature,
retention and compliance with these programs is difficult over the long
term," they write, calling for more work to try to change that.
Some people in the comparison group (8%) said they had exercised during the
study. That was fine with the researchers; they weren't about to discourage
anyone from working out. However, those adults didn't exercise for more than 18
consecutive months, and none said they were following a specific training plan