Physical Activity Correlates with a Reduced Impact of Aging in Later Life

The open access study noted here is one of many to show that greater levels of physical activity correlate well with a reduced risk of age-related disease. It isn't possibly to reliably live to extreme old age on the back of a good exercise program, but that physical activity does reliably improve the odds of experiencing better rather than worse health in later life. Even small benefits can be worth chasing when they cost little and are reliably obtained, so long as that pursuit doesn't distract from far more important initiatives. Exercise is beneficial, but it is no substitute for the rejuvenation therapies presently under development.

Successful aging has been defined as not suffering from chronic diseases, having optimal social engagement and mental health, and a lack of physical disability. Numerous studies have found that physical activity decreases the risk of many chronic diseases and increases longevity. However, the association between physical activity and successful aging has shown heterogeneity across studies. Some studies have shown either a lack of or a weak independent association between physical activity and successful aging; however, other cohort studies as well as systematic reviews have shown that higher levels of physical activity was associated with aging successfully.

Therefore, in our cohort study of 1,584 adults aged 49+ years at baseline we aimed to investigate whether total physical activity is independently associated with successful aging, which was defined as not experiencing disability and chronic disease (coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer), having good mental health and functional independence, and reporting optimal physical, respiratory, and cognitive function during 10 years of follow-up. Participants provided information on the performance of moderate or vigorous activities and walking exercise and this was used to determine total metabolic equivalents (METs) minutes of activity per week.

Of the cohort, 249 (15.7%) participants had aged successfully 10 years later. Older adults in the highest level of total physical activity (more than 5000 MET minutes/week; n = 71) compared to those in the lowest level of total physical activity (less than 1000 MET minutes/week; n = 934) had 2-fold greater odds of aging successfully than normal aging. Our finding of a positive association between physical activity levels and successful aging is in agreement with the existing literature showing that physical activity might be an important parameter in enabling people to age successfully. Moreover, a systematic review found that the effect sizes for the association of successful or healthy aging with high levels of physical activity ranged from 1.27 to 3.09, which is in line with our observed estimate.



Yes Reason, you are correct. Exercise is helpful in many ways but is not enough to get us where we want to go.

It is starting to look like the things that make people long-lived tend to make them exercise, not the other way around.
"Is physical activity a cause of longevity? It is not as straightforward as some would believe. A critical analysis


Posted by: Lee at July 19th, 2018 6:01 AM

I am an exercise advocate, but long term studies like this seem pointless because return participation rates are low and subject to self selection bias, and there is the life style association factor already mentioned. I do not think merely having had Cancer is a strong biomarker of aging of 'aging poorly', but I really have not researched that.

Posted by: johnD at July 19th, 2018 9:03 AM

5,000 MET-minutes/week! How is that even physically possible for "older adults"? So, I work out like HELL on the ellipticals at Planet Fitness 4 or 5 times a week for 30 minutes. I'd say I'm averaging 7 or 8 METs (58 yo male), no processed carbs diet (limits peak performance), and I'm uncomfortable, at the boundary of being out of breath and weakening from it during most of the work out. My resting heart rate is 60 bpm. On a good week, that means I do 5 days X 30 minutes X 8 METs = 1,200 MET-Minutes. I could do an hour 7 times a week at non-stressing 5 METs. That would be 7 X 60 X 5 = 2,100 MET-minutes. So they would have to do ~2 1/2 hours at 5 METs 7 days a week to get to 5,000 MET-Minutes. There is no way an "older adult" is doing 5,000 MET-minutes a week, and they would be doing serious joint, organ, and oxidative metabolic damage if they did. I call BS, either of the reports they are getting for these participants or on the study methodology.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at July 19th, 2018 2:14 PM

15.7% "Aged successfully" 10 years later....


So, here it is people. Eat well, exercise (2.5 hours a day HARD, and risk injury), and you have a 15.7% chance of aging successfully.

Good to know. That's absolutely dismal odds.

I'm sending Aubrey a few more bucks.

Posted by: Mark Borbely at July 19th, 2018 4:22 PM

I have a Fitbit watch and it measures heart rate and steps. At 77, I average a little over 12K steps day or 6 miles/day, 7 days/week. My resting heart rate is 56. My running peak heart rate is 165, but I train at 150 beats/minute. I don't see any reason I can't continue this routine for another 20-25 years.

Posted by: Biotechy Marcks at July 19th, 2018 5:54 PM

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