If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that regular exercise is good for our health, and that a sedentary lifestyle can have a negative effect on our physical wellbeing. National guidelines suggest that the average adult should partake in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes vigorous exercise per weekin order to maintain a healthy body. Until recently, it’s been believed that this level of exercise needs to be relatively consistent throughout your life in order to reap the benefits and reduce the risk of death. A new study, however, suggests that actually, it’s never too late to start.
Why Starting Later is Still Beneficial
The study, carried out at the National Cancer Institute and published in JAMA Network Open, examined people’s exercise patterns and subsequent death records, recording the correlation between an active lifestyle and age and cause of death. Researchers looked at data from 315,059 Americans between the ages of 50 and 71 who had completed questionnaires rating their activity level in the 1990s. The study then tracked who had died and why, up until the end of 2011, taking into account other factors such as age, sex, whether they smoked, their diet, and so on. Of those examined, over 71,000 had died – 22,000 of heart disease, and 16,000 of cancer. Of those examined, 56% claimed they had remained consistently active throughout their lives, 30% stated their exercise levels had declined, and 13% said they started getting fit in later life.
Of course, those who consistently exercised had a lower risk of death when compared to those who didn’t exercise at all (around 42% less chance of dying from heart disease, and 14% less chance of dying from cancer). What the researchers found really interesting, however, is that those who started getting fit in later life had a similar result (43% less likely to die from heart disease, and 16% less chance of dying from cancer). That means that even if you’ve not been active in your early life, it’s not too late to start – you can reap the benefits! Dr. Pedro Saint-Maurice, lead author of the study, explained, “if you maintain an active lifestyle or participate in some sort of exercise […] you can reduce your risk of dying. If you are not active and you get to your 40-50s and you decide to become active, you can still enjoy these benefits”.