October 01, 2012 / Michael M. Siegel, MD
There’s great news for middle-agers coming out of a study recently published in Archives of Internal Medicine – even if you’ve never exercised, beginning even a light exercise program now can extend the years you may live without the debilitating effects of chronic disease. The study, covered in the New York Times, suggests “Being or becoming fit in middle age…even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging.”
For many, the last 10-20 years of our lives are difficult, as many Americans struggle with heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes or colon or lung cancer. But the study showed that adults who were fitter through middle age and beyond extended the healthy years of their late adulthood, essentially delaying the onset of many of these common ailments.
If you haven’t exercised before, but would like to start, where should you begin? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults should:
- Engage in a variety of activities
- Begin a new activity at a low level of effort, gradually working up to a moderate level
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly
- Incorporate balance training into an exercise routine to help prevent falls
Moderate-intensity activity is safe for most people, but if you have a chronic health condition, such as arthritis or cardiovascular disease, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine to learn about the type and amount of activity that will work for you.
As the study leader Dr. Benjamin Willis points out in the Times article, “You don’t have to become an athlete. Just getting up off the couch is key.”
I'd love to hear from some of our middle aged readers what they do to stay active!