Even the elderly should exercise

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Research has found that older runners live longer and suffer fewer disabilities than healthy non–runners. This observation applies to a variety of aerobic exercises, including walking.

A study by authors, from Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has shown that being active reduces disability and increases survival.

There are benefits of vigorous activity late in life. Earlier many experts believed that vigorous exercise would actually harm older individuals. And running, in particular, would result in an epidemic of joint and bone injuries. But this new study proves otherwise.

Two hundred and eighty–four runners and 156 healthy “controls,” or non–runners, in California completed annual questionnaires over a 21–year period. The participants were 50 years old or over at the beginning of the study and ran an average of about four hours a week. By the end of the study period, the participants were in their 70s or 80s or older and ran about 76 minutes a week. At 19 years, just 15 percent of the runners had died, compared with 34 percent of the non–runners.

In the study, running delayed the onset of disability by an average of 16 years. It’s so important to be physically active your whole life, not just in your 20s or 40s, but forever.

Exercise is like the most potent drug. Exercise is by far the best thing you can do.

One should take lessons from Yudhishthir in Mahabharata who walked till his death. However a word of caution, if an elderly is walking or entering into an exercise program, he or she should have a cardiac evaluation done to rule out underlying heart blockages.