It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

If you’re not a yogi, a CrossFit devotee or a marathoner now, and you never plan to be, that’s OK. There are many ways to reap the benefits of exercise. Everyone is different, and so our fitness routines can be, too.

And there’s more good news: Research has shown that it’s never too late to start exercising regularly, even if it’s for the first time.

“There certainly seems to be something here to suggest that women can start exercising later in life and still reap the rewards,” researcher and CDC epidemiologist Edward W. Gregg, Ph.D., told WebMD all the way back in 2003.

At that time, the CDC had just concluded a study of 9,500 women for 12 years, all older than 66 at the time of the study. Those who went from little activity to walking just one mile a day “slashed their risk of death from all causes and from cancer by nearly half. Their risk of heart disease also fell by more than a third,” WebMD reports.

This minor adjustment offered similar protection against chronic disease and death the women who were active when the study began experienced. This suggests that even very mild and limited exercise can have benefits — at all age.

Similarly, the National Institute of Aging says on its website, “Being physically active can help you continue to do the things you enjoy and stay independent as you age. Regular physical activity over long periods of time can produce long-term health benefits. That’s why health experts say that older adults should be active every day to maintain their health.


Numerous other studies have also found a brain benefit to taking up exercise in middle age.

According to a long-term study of more than 3,000 twins, published in September in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, vigorous exercise in middle age can “safeguard” brainpower and memory later in life.

For the research, twins with a mean age of 29 years were tracked for 25 years. Those who exercised most vigorously were shown to have less cognitive impairment at the end of the study.

“Overall, the study shows that moderately vigorous physical activity, meaning more strenuous than walking, is associated with better cognition after an average of 25 years,” explained Urho Kujala, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Sports and Exercise Medicine at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, to “This finding is in accordance with earlier animal model studies, which have shown that physical activity increases the amount of growth factors in the brain and improves synaptic plasticity.”

Interestingly, researchers also found that exercise volume didn’t determine cognition. So more time spent exercising each week might not “lead to better brain power later on” reported.

As for which type of exercise as best, that’s debatable. Studies have found protective effects from both aerobic exercises and weight training, to the tune of two lifting sessions per week.

When did you start exercising and making an active lifestyle priority in your life?

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What to read next:

Which Exercises Are Best for the Brain?

Fun Walking Workouts That’ll Send Your Step Count Sky-High

How to Choose the Best Workout for Your Lifestyle

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