Health Update: It’s never too late to begin exercising.

09Jul10

Researchers at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus found that people between the ages of 78 and 88 who started exercising, have extended their lives; their quality of life has significantly improved and they function more independently. Prof Jochanan Stessman, MD Chairman of the Dept. of Geriatric Rehabilitation at Hadassah-Mt. Scopus, and Dr. Jeremy Jacobs, senior staff member in the department headed the long term research project.

The results indicated that the death rate among 78-year-olds who walked for at least four hours a week decreased by a third in the three years after they began, compared to those who walked less or did not walk at all. The research also showed that exercise was beneficial for people 85 years and older, who had not been active before: their death rate decreased by half in the three years after they began. In addition, the study proved that those who were active suffered less from depression and loneliness, and managed to function better in their daily lives. At the age of 85, 64 percent of the subjects were still exercising. This high rate can be attributed to the Israeli lifestyle.

Older people don’t need intensive exercise to extend their lives. Four-hour weekly walks – a half an hour a day – were beneficial. “The effect of waking four hours a week equals the effect of more intensive exercise,” Prof. Stessman said.

To date, 2,500 Jerusalem residents have participated in the research, which began in 1990 when the subjects were 70 years old and continued until they were 88. They have undergone a physical exam three times since then, and were interviewed about their health, social and financial condition, and of course, exercise.

Less than seven percent of the deceased who exercised, died by the age of 88, compared to 24 percent of the deceased who did not exercise. The researchers emphasize that even after considering other factors such as health and smoking, the amount of exercise had a positive correlation to a longer life.

The conclusion: It’s never too late to begin exercising.

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