Starting physical activity later in life can still deliver significant health benefits, study finds

Photo (c) Halfpoint Images - Getty Images

Experts encourage consumers to get active no matter how old they are

Regular physical activity is an important part of living longer. Now, researchers from the European Society of Cardiology have found that it’s never too late to pick up an exercise routine. 

According to their findings, consumers that start exercising at an older age are likely to reduce their risk of mortality at a similar rate as those who have been active for longer periods of time. 

“The results show that continuing an active lifestyle over the years is associated with the greatest longevity,” said researcher Dr. Nathalia Gonzalez. “However, patients with heart disease can overcome prior years of inactivity and obtain survival benefits by taking up exercise in later life. On the other hand, the benefits of activity can be weakened or even lost if activity is not maintained. The findings illustrate the benefits to heart patients of being physically active, regardless of their previous habits.” 

The benefits of getting active

For the study, the researchers analyzed previous studies that included information from more than 33,000 older participants with coronary heart disease. All of the studies tracked the participants’ physical activity over nearly eight years and evaluated what role exercise played in their longevity. 

The study showed that participants who adopted a regular exercise routine over time had better heart health and lived longer than those who either became inactive over time or stayed inactive for the duration of the study. 

Compared to those who never started exercising, participants who started exercising over the course of the study were nearly 30% less likely to die from heart-related complications and 45% less likely to die from any cause. If those participants were able to stay active over time, those figures both increased to 50%.

The researchers hope consumers are encouraged by these findings because they show that starting an exercise program in later life can still be beneficial to heart health. 

“These encouraging findings highlight how patients with coronary heart disease may benefit by preserving or adopting a physically active lifestyle,” Dr. Gonzalez said. 

Get a health screening near you

Get Peace of Mind or Early Detection with Life Line Screening

Get started