The baby boomers were in their 20s when aerobics became the favourite workout and when people started jogging to stay in shape. After the fitness trend took hold in the late 1970s, people became healthier over the years – cholesterol and blood pressure levels fell, and deaths from heart disease dropped dramatically.
Four decades later, those who started on the ground floor with regular physical activity are realizing its long-term benefits in obvious (and not-so-obvious) ways.
Although regular exercise offers huge advantages at any stage of life, here are the top five benefits of sticking with physical activity over the long-term.
1You’re less likely to get dementia
Physical activity plays a significant role in keeping us mentally agile in our senior years. Research indicates that physical activity improves cognitive function, but a decline in fitness explains why some people are more prone to dementia than others. Another study found those who exercised at least twice a week during middle age were much less likely to develop dementia by the time they reached their 60s and 70s.
2It helps fight frailty
After age 30 we tend to lose one-third of a pound of muscle per year, and our bones become weaker if they aren’t subjected to weight-bearing exercise. Studies show regular strength training can triple overall muscle mass in older adults.
3It helps you relax & improves mood
Exercise produces feel-good hormones that act as anti-depressants. Being physically active also simulates stress – we sweat, our hearts race, our minds are on alert. This exposure helps equip the body to handle the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction that happens when we’re anxious.
4Your heart gets stronger
Moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity strengthens your heart muscle, improving its ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body. Being active on a regular basis also boosts production of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or ‘good,’ cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This keeps blood flowing smoothly and decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
5It keeps you young (ish)
A recent study tracked a group of people in their 70s who had been running regularly for 40+ years and compared them to young adults. Although the active elderly group did have lower aerobic capacities than their younger counterparts, their capacities were about 40 percent higher than inactive adults their age. The active, older adults had the cardiovascular health of someone 30 years younger and far more muscle than more sedentary seniors.