The Merits of a Healthy Lifestyle on Aging

Some significant healthy lifestyle information comes today out of the Physicians Health Study at Harvard Medical School. Men who quit smoking, maintain healthy weight and blood pressure, and get regular exercise in their early elderly years may live longer and in better health than their counterparts who do not follow healthy lifestyles. The study looked both at healthy lifestyle associated with living to the age of 90 and at late-life function in men.

Factors associated with an increased risk for death before 90 years of age were:

  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • obesity

In contrast, regular exercise was associated with a nearly 30% decrease in the risk of death.

The good news is that it is never too late to start a regular exercise program. Researchers have studied the effects of exercise on even the most debilitated elderly. The exercise program consisted of resistance training three times a week and endurance training twice a week for four to eight weeks. Resistance training resulted in significant increases in strength, particularly in those who were the most debilitated. All elderly patients can participate in resistance training, leading to increased strength and functional status.

Structured rehabilitation provided by licensed therapists has proven results, even among the ill elderly. Positive changes in lifestyle including quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, and regular exercise will decrease the risk factors for disease, the risk for debilitating illness and premature death.

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