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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Want to Stay Young? Start Moving

Study finds it's never too late to reap the anti-aging benefits of exercise


Partnering with someone is a real motivator, Heller said. "Give a session with a qualified personal trainer as a holiday gift; explore fitness-class offerings at the local YMCA or community or senior centers; or sign up for a charity walk, run or swim."

For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-'03 and 2010-'11.

The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. There were those who were inactive, those who did moderate exercise and those who exercised vigorously.

In addition, the researchers kept track of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, emphysema and Alzheimer's disease. They also monitored the participants' mental health and physical.

Over eight years, almost one in 10 participants became active and 70 percent remained active. The others stayed inactive or became inactive.

By the end of the study, almost 40 percent of the participants developed a chronic medical condition, nearly 20 percent were depressed, 20 percent were mentally impaired and one-third had a disability.

One in five, however, was considered by the researchers to be a "healthy ager." There was a direct association between healthy aging and exercise, the researchers said, although they did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found.

Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.

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