The Secrets to Aging Well and Healthily

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The Secrets to Aging Well and HealthilyA new study has shed more light on how we can all age gracefully, staying healthy and disease-free into our twilight years. It’s no shocking development certainly, but it hopefully serves as motivation to get moving. Researchers found that fitness helps you live longer and helps keep chronic disease at arm’s length.

At the root of this new health advice is the finding that staying physically fit as an adult helps extend lifespan as an older adult. It also raises one’s chances of aging healthily, free from illness and, thus, quite happily.

(Plus: How social interaction can help with aging gracefully)

Decades of research has shown that having a fit cardiovascular system and respiratory system could reduce your all-cause risk of death. Yet, previously, we had not known just how much fitness might affect the burden of chronic disease in aging adults. This idea is known in the medical world as “morbidity compression.” That means, compressing the burden of such terrible disease into a very short window of time.

The study basically found that exercise does indeed keep us alive longer — and we are talking years and years in most cases. But it went further and discovered that staying fit actually lowers the onset of chronic disease in your final years of life.

The news comes from information on 18,670 individuals. This was then linked with Medicare claims filed when the people were aged 70 to 85. This latest study shows that when patients increased fitness levels by 20% during midlife (30s, 40s, 50s), they slashed their risk for congestive heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon cancer by 20%.

If you stay fit, you can age gracefully and, even in your final few years, have a much greater chance of being free from disease. That means a much kinder, gentler passing into the good night, which of course we don’t like to think about, but it’s something we all must face.

The study found the positive effect kept going until end of life, with fitter people living their final five years of life with fewer chronic diseases. Walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling — whatever your cup of aerobic exercise tea is, it will play a big role in your healthy life moving forward. Many studies have found that a nice combination of aerobic exercise and weight training can do wonders for overall fitness.

Health experts recommend that adults get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate to intense aerobic activity each week. If you have a chronic condition or physical difficulty and are not sure what your body can handle, talk to your doctor about your fitness routine at your next visit.