There’s a holy trinity of overcoming not-so-great health, as well as attaining and keeping good health: eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly. But with all the doom and gloom reported in health news, when it comes to exercise, it can feel like getting started later in life may not have any impact on health. Recent studies of aging adults, however, indicate quite the opposite.
For one study in particular, researchers set out to determine whether physical activity, often associated with increased longevity and improved health, is accompanied by preserved mental and physical functioning, characteristics which indicate what the study defines as “healthy aging.”
Researchers recruited more than 12,000 men between the ages of 65 and 83 and followed their progress for 10-13 years. Physical activity was assessed at the beginning and end, and men who reported 150 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity per week were considered physically active.
In a nutshell, the studies found that maintaining a regimen of physical activity is “associated with improved survival and healthy ageing older men.” The study also indicated that vigorous physical activity had a positive impact on aging and is advisable when safe and feasible.
Aside from what the research shows, there are myriad benefits to regularly incorporating exercise into one’s day. While it can be difficult to find motivation to exercise – particularly for those who are overweight, or experience conditions that may restrict movement or activity – once a routine has been established, most exercisers are loathe to go without some form of activity on a regular basis.
Exercise is beneficial both physically and mentally. According to Helpguide.org, on the physical end of the spectrum for those over 50, exercise can help older adults maintain or lose weight, reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease, enhance mobility, flexibility, and balance. Mentally, exercise can improve sleep, boost mood and self-confidence, and is good for the brain by keeping it active, which, the website states, can prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia, and may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
To determine whether physical activity is “safe and feasible,” potential exercisers should consult their doctor. A medical practitioner who is familiar with a patient’s medical history can suggest possible forms of exercise appropriate for the individual’s specific needs. For some, a simple walk may be the best way to get started while for others, water activities, like water aerobics or swimming, may help ease joint pain.
Regardless of age when an individual begins exercising, the benefits will be seen immediately, with improved mood and energy levels, and later, with a potentially increased lifespan and better overall health and cognition. Combined with eating healthfully and getting enough sleep, this holy trinity is easily attainable by mere mortals.