A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that adults who exercise more tend to be less susceptible to mental and physical health problems including depression, dementia, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The English Longitudinal Study of Aging studied 3,500 adults (average age 64 years old) and collected data on their physical activity level every two years between 2002-2003 and 2010-2011. The participants were then categorized by the amount they exercised each week and divided into three categories – no activity, moderate activity and vigorous activity. The researchers also tracked serious health problems (including mental health) suffered by the participants and found a strong correlation between health and exercise as the participants aged.
The results showed a clear correlation between “healthy aging” and exercise level. Adults who practiced moderate or vigorous exercise at least once a week were 3-4x more likely to age healthier than adults who did not exercise. While this association is not a clear cause-and-effect relationship, the fact is that adults who were active in the beginning of the study were 7 times more likely to have fewer health problems than adults who did not exercise for the entirety of the study. Twenty percent of all participants were considered to be healthy agers, and of the 1 in 10 participants that became active over the study, 70% stayed active.
So how much exercise is enough? The World Health Organization recommends adults age 65+ do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise during the week with each session lasting at least 10 minutes. Adults should also practice muscle-strengthening activities 2-3 times a week.