Starting Exercise In Middle Age. Late Is Better Than Never:
Many of us do what we can to Get healthy.
And then after that, comes the part about Staying healthy.
For example, getting down to a good weight is great for avoiding complications.
But Exercise is even better.
But as scientists study things we thought we knew about, they’re finding-out more things we didn’t.
This is especially-true for the NCI work that found the old saying “Use it or lose it.” might actually be true…
The Exercise MythBusters!:
So there are a lot of myths out there about both diet and exercise.
And the researchers in this current work demonstrate another myth.
If you exercised a lot when you were younger and you stay lean, you’re fine.
Wrong. Even if you exercised early in-life, if you stop, your mortality-risk goes back to average,
And the key Short-Answer for this work is: Even if you start exercising in late middle age, you can improve your health-outcomes to be as good as people who exercised all-along.
What?! I know. -Read on to find out more…
Athletes Are Forever? Or Use It Or Lose It?:
So perhaps we look too much toward Professional athletes for our inspiration.
They weren’t surveyed for the current study, but maybe that’s where the idea comes from,
Because they’re in such super-human shape.
But the idea persists: If you used to REALLY work-out in your early-life, say up-to your 30s,
You must be set forever if you don’t get too fat, right?
The other corollary idea that comes along with that is:
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, And so if you start exercising “too late” it will never do any good.
I guess SCIENCE! now says both are wrong.
Shocking Results! Exercise Makes You Healthier:
So in a study of just over 300,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 71,
They were surveyed about their exercise habits in 4 key time-frames of life:
15-18, 19-29, 35-39, and 40-61 years old.
And the results on longevity were surprising in some cases.
Subjects who reported they exercised between 2 and 8 hours per week from start to finish,
Had an average of 32.5% lower risk of early mortality.
-This was compared to couch-potatoes who exercised rarely or not at-all.
As far as Specific-Diseases go, their risk of heart-disease death was 42% lower,
And their risk of Cancer death was 14% lower.
Seems normal so-far.
But Here’s What Nobody Guessed About Starting Exercise In Middle Age!:
Here’s where things get weird.
So there was a group of people Dr. Pedro Saint-Maurice’s team at NCI found who had more-or-less not exercised at all.
…Until their 40s.
Who then raised their activity-levels above what they had done when younger and the recent-past,
Then somehow, through the magic of biochemistry, that group showed just about the same drop in early-mortality,
With an average decline of about 33.5% compared to people who don’t exercise!
Guess what? Their reduction in rates of Cardiovascular and Cancer deaths went down by about the same as the lifelong-exercisers, too!
Exercise’s Many Benefits And The Power Of Routine:
So let’s be clear, this is not to say don’t exercise throughout your life.
It has many more benefits than just the ones in this study.
-Like the tendency to stay slimmer, for one.
And if you do cardio, there’s a good chance it could help your brain clean-out all the Alzheimer’s gunk much better than doing nothing.
Not only that, but The Power Of Routine is also an amazing one.
If you build up good habits over a long-time, then you’re used to continuing them into the future.
And Tomorrow won’t be that much of a hard day on your exercise calendar compared to other people.
There are some Caveats:
Just to be clear, these surveys were self-reported,
There were not 2 perfectly-similar groups with 1 doing nothing as a control.
Also, there would be some included-errors by people trying to remember what the routines, types, & amounts were from various periods in their life.
The type of the exercises undertaken was not available either.
But on the bright side, almost all the people surveyed who reported being active were doing at least 30 minutes, 5x a week, as the government recommends.
Also, people who exercised were getting moderate to high levels of intensity when they did-so, too.
So, because the complexity and inconvenience of conducting a highly-controlled experiment makes it even more impossible than strict diet studies over long periods,
These results can only be called Correlation.
But on the other hand, when you have 315,000 subjects, trends that line up with other study-results do start to emerge.
But The Real Bombshell Is Still Amazing:
The real finding that’s a Shot Heard ‘Round The World,
Is of-course that research supports the idea that It’s Never Too Late to get started on something new, and make meaningful change.
And to arrive at similar benefits, even with such a late-start is just incredible.
The idea that beginning exercise even as old as in your 50s could still benefit in the long-term to such a huge-extent,
Is a research-backed conclusion that Nobody saw coming!
Also, an ominous-reminder is the finding that if you stop, your mortality-risk goes right back up to the level of the couch-potatoes!
So just remember to get out there even if it’s a late-start in middle age, go find some exercise that works for you, get going and keep going!
Photo Credits: “starter”, by Michal Zacharzewski