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Exercise benefits even those who take it up late in life

Taking up physical activity later in life is associated with improved overall health, suggests a recent UK study.

The prospective study of 3454 initially disease-free men and women with a mean age of 63.7 recorded self-reported physical activity at baseline and through the eight years of follow-up. Healthy ageing, assessed at the end of the follow-up period, was defined as those participants who survived without developing major chronic disease, depressive symptoms, physical or cognitive impairments.

At follow-up, 19.3% of the sample was defined as ageing healthily. In comparison with inactive participants, moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week was associated with healthy ageing by 2.67 and 3.53-fold respectively. 

The researchers noted that sustained physical activity in older age is associated with ‘improved overall health’ and that ‘significant health benefits were seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life’.

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