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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Looking for the Fountain of Youth? Try the Gym

continued...

Heart specialist Lynn Smaha, MD, a past president of the American Heart Association, says he is not surprised by the study findings. The original study, he added, helped change the thinking about the recovery of heart patients.

"In days gone by, people who had [heart attacks] were put on bed rest for six weeks," he tells WebMD. "These days, I have patients who have had heart surgery up and walking a mile a day in the hospital within a week. That sets the stage, and they recover much faster than if they get no exercise."

Smaha, who runs four miles a day, says lack of exercise is probably the second leading contributor to heart disease, behind smoking. Current American Heart Association guidelines call for 30 to 45 minutes of exercise three to five times a week, but new guidelines to be released within the next few weeks are expected to recommend some aerobic exercise every day.

"Maintaining an exercise program throughout life results in a better quality of life," Smaha says. "And this study shows that it is never too late to start."

Study participant Laszlo agrees. With three children who are athletes, including a 27-year-old son who competes in Iron Man competitions, Laszlo says he has plenty of motivation to keep active.

"I still work out, but I have to admit I think walking is boring," he says. "I do sports because it's fun. But it doesn't matter what you do as long as you keep your heart rate up a bit."

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