People in their forties who exercise a lot still fit 25 years on
If you get lots of exercise in your forties and fifties, you'll still be reaping the benefits a quarter of a century later. Finnish researchers at Oulu City Hospital discovered this when they did an epidemiological study of over five hundred men. The Finns discovered that an active lifestyle during middle age reduces the likelihood of loss of muscle, energy and strength in old age.
Of all the elderly still living alone, between 5 and 10 percent could be classified as 'frail', and 30-40 percent are on the way to becoming so. Gerontologists use the term 'frailty' to describe elderly people who against their will are losing weight or have a too low BMI, have difficulty with everyday activities such as carrying their shopping, have low energy levels and are no longer physically active.
As a result of continuous loss of muscle mass and strength, elderly people are at a certain point no longer able to look after themselves and require help. Frail elderly people are also more susceptible for disease. A simple cold or bout of the flu can lead to serious complications.
The Finns wondered whether people can protect themselves against frailty later in life if they exercise a lot at a young age. They attempted to answer this question by doing a study in which 514 men participated. In the 1960s and 70s these men had participated in the Helsinki Businessmen Study, and during this period they were all healthy. They hadn't used medicines, did not suffer from diabetes or any cardiovascular complications.
In 1974 they men had answered questions on their lifestyle, and on the basis of these the researchers divided them into three groups: one group of men who did less than 2 hours of exercise a week [Low LTPA], one group who exercised 2-6 hours a week [Moderate LTPA] and a group that did more than 6 hours exercise a week [High PTA].
In 2000 the researchers approached the men again. Of the group that had done little exercise 16 percent were frail. Of the group that had had moderate and the group that had intensive exercise 10.2 and 4.7 percent respectively were frail.
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"Our results strongly suggest that continuous physical activity since midlife has a strong and independent effect on the frailty phenotype in old age and emphasize the importance of starting regular physical activity early in life to prevent the development of this important geriatric condition", the researchers conclude.
J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Nov;68(11):1433-8.
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