It Is Never Too Late to Start Exercising, Even if You Are 80

It’s never too late to start exercising, even if you’re already 80 years old. Prof. Lijing Yan’s team at the Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University, published research results in Preventive Medicine.

The team found that maintaining frequent physical activity or switching from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one would benefit them with longer survival time among the most senior population (over 80 years old).

photo by matt bennett (unsplash)

The study, using data from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), categorized participants aged 80 and above into four groups: 1) remaining physically inactive; 2) remaining physically active; 3) shifting from being inactive to active; 4) shifting from being active to inactive.

“We followed a total of 22,463 elderly individuals aged 80 and above. After comparing the different groups, we found that both the ‘remaining physically active’ group and the ‘shifting from being inactive to active’ group had longer lifespans compared to the group of ‘remaining physically inactive’,” said Ruoyu Yin, first author of the article and a doctoral student at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore who is currently interning at Duke Kunshan University.

The study also considered participants’ chronic disease conditions, self-rated health status, and general life satisfaction. “We found that elderly individuals with chronic diseases who started exercising after being inactive could also benefit from their longevity,” Ruoyun Yin added.

Prof. Yingjing Yan
Ruoyu Yin

Combining the previous findings from other research, the team recommends that elderly individuals maintain an appropriate level of physical exercise with guidance from medical doctors, regardless of their current health status or chronic diseases. This could include low-intensity activities like walking or vigorous exercises, which can help prevent major cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and cognitive impairments, contributing to healthy aging.

“The association of physical exercise and mortality is not a novel topic. However, many previous studies focused on adults under 80. At 80, many may wonder if it’s too late to exercise. Our research concludes that it’s never too late to start. The key is to get active,” said Prof. Lijing Yan, the corresponding author of the article and Director of the Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases Research Department at the Global Health Research Center, Duke Kunshan University.

Prof. Lijing Yan suggests future research explore the long-term effects of implementing exercise programs using mobile apps or wearable devices tailored for the elderly, providing further evidence for effective interventions in healthy aging.

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