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More exercise, fewer drugs

MagazineJanuary 2005 (Vol. 15 Issue 10)More exercise, fewer drugs

Regular exercise provides a myriad of health benefits: it can prevent premature death (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30: 992-1008; JAMA, 1989; 262: 2395-401) and lower the risk of disorders associated with ageing

Regular exercise provides a myriad of health benefits: it can prevent premature death (Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1998; 30: 992-1008; JAMA, 1989; 262: 2395-401) and lower the risk of disorders associated with ageing. Yet, up to three-quarters of the older adult population do not currently exercise at the recommended levels.

A sedentary lifestyle, smoking and hypertension all raise the risk of heart failure to roughly the same degree. But, although less than 10 per cent of women over 75 smoke, more than 70 per cent are too inactive (Arch Fam Med, 1998; 7: 285-9) - in itself a major cause of illness.

Almost all older individuals can benefit from additional physical activity that includes a mix of aerobic exercise (such as walking), strength training (using weights), and balance and flexibility (yoga or tai chi). Older adults who remain active reap many rewards (Am Fam Physician, 2002; 65: 419-26, 427-8), including:

  • better heart function
  • better circulation
  • improved glycaemic control
  • stronger bones
  • better balance
  • less pain
  • healthier joints
  • better sleep quality
  • less fatigue
  • sharper minds
  • lower risk of colon, breast, prostate and rectal cancer.

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