Never too late to start exercise

'Late exercise starters' can still benefit greatly from starting exercising even if over 60 years. Starting regular exercise when aged over 60 can still prevent major ill health problems and dementia, recently published research suggests. 

The study which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tracked 3,500 healthy people who were at or around retirement age. Those who started exercising even at this late stage of their life were discovered to be three times more likely to remain healthy over the next eight years than the sedentery comparison group.

It was found that regular exercise reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and depression. The researchers also noted that those who took up exercise in their 60s were also less likely to struggle with day-to-day activities such as washing and dressing.

Healthy agers

In the study after an eight year follow-up, 20 percent of those studied were defined as healthy - i.e they were not suffering from any major chronic mental or physical illness. This group was largely made up of people who always exercised and relative newcomers to exercise. In this healthy group there were few people who did no exercise at all.

It is ideal to carry out regular exercise throughout your life, say the researchers, but there are health benefits to be had even if you begin exercise in your 60s and probably even later.  

Lead investigator Dr Mark Hamer, from University College London, said: "The take-home message really is to keep moving when you are elderly. "It's [a] cliche, but it's a case of use it or lose it. You do lose the benefits if you don't remain active."

In the study, those who had regularly indulged in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers than those who had remained inactive, even after taking into account factors such as smoking.

Dr Hamer says physical activity does not necessarily mean going to the gym or going for a run - gardening or walking to the shops also counts.

The UK Department of Health recommends all adults, including those over 65, do at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

Doireann Maddock, of the British Heart Foundation, said: "It's well worth getting into the habit of keeping active, as we know it can help reduce the risk of heart disease along with many other conditions. "Every 10 minutes counts, so even hopping off the bus a couple of stops early or taking a brisk walk on your lunch break will help."