The study, which was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at the overall health and exercise patters for 3,454 healthy seniors involved in the ongoing English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Study participants reported if and how often they exercised at the start of the study and continued journaling their exercise patterns over the next eight years.
At the follow-up, researchers examined the health records of each of the participants. At the end of the study, 19 percent of the seniors were considered to be aging healthily. In other words, they had not developed any major chronic diseases or depression and their mental and physical health had not deteriorated during the study period. Not surprisingly, seniors who were active before the study began and continued exercising during the study were the most likely to experience healthy aging. But study participants who were previously inactive and then started exercising during the study period also saw improved health.
Overall, seniors who were remained active during all eight years of the study were over seven times more likely to experience healthy aging than those who remained inactive. Seniors who became active after the study began were three times more likely to age well compared to their inactive peers.
"The results appear to suggest that maintaining or beginning any form of regular activity is beneficial," the researchers wrote. "This study supports public health initiatives designed to engage older adults in physical activity, even those who are of advanced age," they added.
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