(NaturalNews) A Swedish study recently published in the British Medical Journal has given those who have reached or passed middle age hope and encouragement to begin a new healthy lifestyle, having discovered that starting a solid exercise regime after the age of 50 can raise one's level of longevity to that of those who have been exercising regularly all along.
With the onset of middle and then old age, health, wellbeing and vitality deteriorate as the bodily engine begins to wear out; to some extent, this is an unavoidable process, part of the natural cycle of mortal existence. Yet, the truth is, due to degenerate lifestyle and dietary habits, our bodies are failing much faster than they should be. And, unfortunately, most people embrace age-correlated health decline too readily and easily, without realizing that there is a lot more we can do to slow and even reverse the trend. The truth is, we can reverse the damage done earlier, and raise our level of health to that of those who have been living healthily throughout the years.
Details of Study
The said exercise was a population-based cohort study carried out in the Swedish municipality of Uppsala. It had looked at 2,205 men, first surveying them from 1970 to 1973 when the men were 50 years old. The study subjects were categorized into four groups based on their level of physical activity - sedentary, low, medium or high, and they were followed up on at the ages of 60, 70, 77 and 82. The basic aim of the study was to find out how post-middle age changes in levels of physical activity affect mortality rates.
Findings of Study
Not surprisingly at all, the study team found that more physical activity translated to lower mortality rates - for those in the low, medium and high level groups, the absolute mortality rates were 27.1, 23.6 and 18.4 per 1,000 person years respectively.
What was more significant was the researchers' discovery that those who raised their levels of physical activity while they were aged between 50 and 60 experienced improved mortality rates, reaching the rates of men who had all along carried out high levels of physical activity. This is certainly excellent news for late-starters.
In fact, the reduction in mortality for those who increased their level of physical activity, as compared to those who continued to only carry out low levels of physical activity, was so pronounced that the study team found that it matched the effects of stopping smoking. With smoking being strongly associated with many dangerous diseases and premature death, this is a very significant comparison indeed.
There is, however, a catch. The abovementioned improvement in mortality rate was observed 10 years after the change in habit. For the first 5 years of follow-up, men who had raised their levels of physical activity continued to experience higher mortality, as compared to those who had carried out high levels of physical activity throughout the years. This suggests that a sustained period of regular physical activity (at least 5 years) would be necessary for the low-level-exercisers to "catch up" with the high-level ones in terms of longevity.
"Increased physical activity in middle age is eventually followed by a reduction in mortality to the same level as seen among men with constantly high physical activity. This reduction is comparable with that associated with smoking cessation," wrote the study team.
Physical Activity Improves Health and Longevity, and It's Never Too Late to Start
The link between regular physical activity and good health and longevity has been repeatedly and firmly established in countless studies. While the Uppsala study concentrated on middle-aged men, the benefits apply to both genders of all age groups.
For example, using information from the Shanghai Women's Health Study which ran from 1997 to 2004, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology had found that exercise, walking, cycling as a mode of transportation, as well as non-exercise physical activity in general helped to improve women's average lifespan. It showed that both exercise or an overall active lifestyle, or a combination of the two, can bring about the said benefit.
With about half of middle-aged men in Western nations failing to undertake a regular exercise regime, perhaps some with the mentality that it would not make much difference anyway, the findings of the recent study in Sweden would provide some encouragement that it is never too late to start an exercise program.