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Exercise now, benefit later

Consumer Reports News: August 26, 2011 04:03 PM

If you’re waiting for the “right time” to start working out more, don’t delay. The earlier you start exercising, the more likely you are to maintain physical performance and strength in older age, suggests a study out this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers in England and Australia analyzed self-reported exercise levels of approximately 2,400 British men and women at ages 36, 43 and 53 followed since their birth in the month of March,1946. In 1999, when all the participants in the study were 53 years of age, the researchers measured their grip strength, standing balance, and how long it took them to rise from a chair as indicators of strength and physical performance.

Grip strength is a measure of upper-body muscle condition. Chair-rise times are associated with lower body strength and power, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness. Standing balance requires mental concentration and subtle motor control and measures a number of neurophysiological and sensory systems.

Participants who were more active at all three ages showed better performance on the chair-rise test. Those more active at ages 43 and 53 had better performance on the standing balance test, even after adjusting for covariates. However, physical activity and grip strength were not associated in women and, in men, only physical activity at age 53 was associated with grip strength.

Bottom line:
So maybe you haven’t been pumping iron since middle school—don’t let that discourage you from starting now. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that there’s no time like the present to get fit, not only to enhance physical performance but to help ward off a long list of health problems and increase longevity as well.

Aim for two and half hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week, and see our tips on staying in shape and our ratings on exercise and fitness equipment.

Physical Activity Across Adulthood and Physical Performance in Midlife: Findings from a British Birth Cohort [American Journal of Preventive Medicine]

Ginger Skinner

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