March 09, 2009
Starting Exercise In Late Middle Age Works As Well

One way to spin this story is that it is never too late to improve your lifestyle and get more exercise. Another way to look at it: You can delay exercise till you hit 50.

Swedish researchers from Uppsala University monitored more than 2,200 men from the age of 50.

They found those who increased activity levels from 50 to 60 ended up living as long as those who were already exercising regularly by middle age.

There was a difference in outcomes for people who were sedentary, getting medium levels of exercise, and getting high levels at age 50. But if people stepped up from either sedentary or medium to high after age 50 they did just as well as the people who were already getting high exercise levels.

So all you people who feel smug exercising regularly in your 20s in order to live longer wipe that smug smile off your faces. Of course, the exercise will help you feel better in the now. So it still has appeal. But my guess is an excellent diet for one's full life will pay off much better than regular exercise for the same length of time.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 09 08:53 PM  Aging Exercise Studies

James Bowery said at March 10, 2009 12:13 AM:

What's more interesting of course is the impact on age-related cognitive decline.

cancer_man said at March 10, 2009 7:22 AM:

"But my guess is an excellent diet for one's full life will pay off much better than regular exercise for the same length of time"

From what I've read, this is probably true to a smaller degree than you think. One exception, as just mentioned, might be cognitive ability after middle age.

David Govett said at March 10, 2009 11:07 AM:

If you begin running marathons at age 90, you'll live a long time.

Bob Badour said at March 10, 2009 3:16 PM:

Won't people who have genetically and dietary good health be more likely to start an exercise regimen at 50 than someone who has bad health? What does this study really measure? If anything?

Randall Parker said at March 10, 2009 6:22 PM:


That is a great idea.


Not sure. We need to know why people finally start exercising after age 50. Doctor's advice because they have terrible blood panels? Sudden fear of death? Or other causes?


In my mind I'm comparing the best to the worst diet. The worst diet can cause huge damage. Maybe some are genetically immune to the worst diet. But some can push their triglycerides and cholesterol to high levels and become obese. That'll kill you.

momochan said at March 11, 2009 6:33 PM:

If you factor in joint damage (which, to a certain extent, goes along with serious exercise) it might make sense to strategically delay an exercise regimen.
On the other hand, it's hard to change one's habits late in life, so might as well start early.

Randall Parker said at March 12, 2009 8:25 PM:


We really need genetic profiles that will give us some indication of how much of various forms of exercise we can handle without accelerating the aging of joints. Some kinds of exercise are higher impact obviously. But there's a benefit when younger: increased bone density. Helps in old age. But again, genetic profile to assess risk of osteoporosis would help.

What would help most of all: gene and cell therapy to fix the decaying parts.

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