Exercise Does a Body Good . . .
Doctors and medical researchers around the world agree: lifelong fitness helps maintain health and wellness in many ways. Studies show that exercise promotes weight loss and maintenance, combats anxiety and depression, and keeps bones, muscles and joints working properly. Physical fitness also wards off disease and chronic illness, reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Researchers believe that even loss of physical function is treatable and preventable through exercise. Rather than relying on medication or surgery for improved health and mobility, many older adults are finding physical activity to be their miracle cure. "We've yet to see an age-related symptom that doesn't improve with exercise," says Miriam E. Nelson of Tufts University's School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
It's a Brain Booster . . .
In addition to healthier bodies, older adults who exercise also have healthier brains. A study by the MacArthur Foundation found that exercise increases chemicals that stimulate the brain's nerve growth. In fact, physically strenuous activity was discovered to be one of the predictors of continued high cognitive function. Researchers found that three key areas of the brain adversely affected by aging remain healthy when a person stays physically fit. Additional studies have proved that aerobic exercise improves problem solving and other cognitive abilities by boosting cellular and molecular components of the brain.
And It Increases Longevity
Physically fit older adults not only enjoy greater health, they can look forward to a longer life. After reviewing the medical histories of more than 5,000 middle-aged and older Americans, Dutch researchers found that those who had moderate to high levels of activity lived 1.3 to 3.7 years longer than those who got little exercise.
"Physical activity really does make a difference," said Oscar H. Franco of the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam. "Not only for how long you live, but for how long you live a healthy life."