The health benefits of physical activity are well known and documented. Today, a new study based on a review of all published journals has been published to investigate the relationship between physical activity and health in adults aged 60 and over. It concluded that physically active adults have a lower risk for premature death, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer, recurrent falls, broken bones, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, shows that physically active adults have a better quality of life, better cognitive functions and a healthier aging process than their less active or sedentary counterparts.
Conor Cunningham, lead author of the study and PhD student at the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, collected data from 24 meta-analyses of adults over 60 years of age. He believes that although the health benefits of physical activity have been known for some time, the study highlights the emerging conclusive evidence of the mental health benefits of physical activity. It highlights the fact that physically active adults are more likely to avoid depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Risks of physical inactivity
An earlier study, published in the Journal of Physiology in 2018, already indicated that older people who had been sedentary for a while quickly lost muscle mass and mobility. The study analyzed the harmful effects of inactivity on older people, which proved to be more severe for them than for younger people. The researchers found that physically inactive adults lost muscle strength, especially in the lower limbs, making it difficult for them to perform activities such as climbing stairs. Such effects were observed despite a relatively short period of inactivity.
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In another study, researchers from Italian universities in Udine and Padua examined the effects of total inactivity in the group of elderly people who were treated in a hospital for two weeks. By comparing the results with those of younger people, they found that the loss of muscle mass and the change in the way the nervous system controls muscle contraction was more pronounced in older people than in young people. In addition, recovery was more difficult for the older people than for the younger patients.
The key is to remain active throughout life
According to experts from the American Academy of Orthopedics, most changes in the musculoskeletal system of older people are due to lack of exercise rather than simple aging. The experts recommend walking, cycling, swimming, stretching and strength training to maintain joint flexibility and muscle mass. Regular exercise does not have to be strenuous, and even moderate physical activity can help older adults lead healthier lives. With prolonged exercise, exercise can slow down muscle breakdown and prevent the accumulation of age-related fat. According to experts just half an hour of exercise a day can bring significant health benefits.