Lifetime Benefits of Physical Activity

Lifetime Benefits of Physical Activity

The benefits of physical activity accumulate across a lifetime, according to a new study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


Researchers in England and Australia examined the associations of leisure time physical activity across adulthood with physical performance and strength in midlife in a group of British men and women followed since birth in March 1946.


Importance of Physical Activity and Muscle Strength


"Maintaining physical performance and muscle strength with age is important given that lower levels in older populations are associated with increased risk of subsequent health problems, loss of independence, and shorter survival times," commented lead investigator Rachel Cooper, PhD, Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing.


Dr. Cooper continued, “We found that there are cumulative benefits of physical activity across adulthood on physical performance in mid-life. Increased activity should be promoted early in adulthood to ensure the maintenance of physical performance in later life. Promotion of leisure time activity is likely to become increasingly important in younger populations as people’s daily routines become more sedentary."


Discover Fountain of Youth in Your Muscles


Study on Age, Strength, and Physical Activity


The study, conducted by investigators from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health in London, and the School of Population Health, University of Queensland in Australia, used data from about 2400 men and women from the UK Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development.


They analyzed self-reported leisure time physical activity levels at 36, 43 and 53 years of age. During the 53-year investigation, grip strength, standing balance, and chair rise times were measured as indicators of strength and physical performance.


Grip strength is a measure of upper-body muscle condition. Chair-rise times are associated with lower body strength and power, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness.


Standing balance requires mental concentration and subtle motor control and measures a number of neurophysiological and sensory systems.


Benefits of Physical Activity Across Adulthood


Participants who were more active at all three ages showed better performance on the chair-rise test. Persons more active at ages 43 and 53 had better performance on the standing balance test.


Dr. Cooper added that the findings in relation to chair rising and standing balance performance suggest that promotion of leisure time physical activity across adulthood would have beneficial effects on physical performance later in life and hence the functional health and quality of life of the aging population.


Learn more in Future Potential to Slow the Ageing Process


Reference: American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published Online August 2011.

"Physical Activity Across Adulthood and Physical Performance in Midlife: Findings from a British Birth Cohort," Rachel Cooper, PhD, Gita D. Mishra, PhD, and Diana Kuh



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