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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Exercise at middle age pays off big

Exercise can help a person age gracefully, cutting down on time spent battling chronic conditions
The Straits Times - November 1, 2012
By: Ng Wan Ching
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Exercise at middle age pays off big

The benefits of exercise are extensive. And it is never too late to start.

Exercise is a specific and effective treatment for many knee problems, which tend to crop up as one ages. It has been shown, for example, that strength in the muscles around a damaged knee can help support it by taking over some of its functions.

For example, strong quadriceps at the front of the thighs, can take over the shock-absorbing role usually performed by the cartilage in the knee.

Exercise can also help a person age gracefully, cutting down on time spent battling chronic conditions. A study published in August in the Archives Of Internal Medicine suggests that fit adults in their 40s and 50s developed illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and colon and lung cancer later compared with those who were less fit.

The most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the last five years of their lives and those less fit lived with such conditions in the final 10 to 20 years of their lives.

While aerobic fitness is partly determined by genetics, much of a person's fitness, especially by middle age, depends on physical activity, said Dr Jarett Berry, an author of the study.

The study also suggests that a middle-aged person who moves from the least fit to the next higher fitness category gets more benefit, in terms of staving off chronic diseases, than the person who moves from the second fittest category to the most fit category.

To move out of the least fit category requires 20 to 30 minutes of walking a day.

The take-home message is clear - exercise in middle age can pay off big benefits later, especially if one had not been exercising earlier.

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