When your fifties come knocking, your children leave the nest and retirement seems within reach, like many others you may want to seize the opportunity to begin taking better care of yourself. From a health standpoint, it is actually a perfect time to reassess your lifestyle in order to increase your likelihood of living a full and healthy life in the years to come. In fact, a new study suggests that individuals who increase their activity levels in middle age can prolong their life expectancy as much as if they quit smoking.
Researchers assessed the activity levels of more than 2,200 Swedish men in the early 1970s, when the men were 50 years old, and then again ten years later. The men were put into three categories based on the amount of exercise they did each week: “high” if they did three or more hours of sports or heavy gardening per week, “moderate” if they did the equivalent of a few hours of walking or cycling per week, and “sedentary” if they spent most of their free time watching television.
The results showed that the participants who were the most active lived 2.3 years longer than those who were sedentary and 1.1 year longer than those who were moderately active, once factors like weight, alcohol intake and smoking were taken into account. Interestingly, those who intensified their activity level during their fifties lived the longest. The gain in life expectancy was the same as for someone who quit smoking around that same age.
Obviously, other factors such as eating habits, smoking, alcohol intake and stress play an important role in remaining healthy on the eve of retirement. However, this study suggests that it is never too late to start exercising (or get back to it), as the benefits on life expectancy are significant! As we know, regular exercise is also helpful in maintaining a healthy body weight, reducing blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and achieving overall well-being. If you are sedentary, however, you should consult your physician before undertaking any vigorous exercise.