An observational study published in American journal JAMA looked at how patterns of leisure-time physical activity from adolescence (15 to 18) to later adulthood (40-61) were associated with risk of dying using data for 315,000 adults.

The results suggest maintaining physical activity from adolescence into later adulthood was associated with lower risk of dying – but so was increasing leisure-time physical activity in adulthood, including from age 41 to 60, for adults who had been less active.

“Our findings suggest that it is not too late for adults to become active,” concludes the study.

“These findings are particularly informative for health care professionals advising individuals who have been physically inactive throughout much of their adulthood that substantial health benefits can still be gained by improving their physical activity habits.”

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report released last year showed a lack of exercise is damaging the wellbeing of one in four of people, globally.

Exercise NZ chief executive Richard Beddie says New Zealanders are not exempt.

“It’s worrying because exercise is important, in many different ways, to our health. Exercise helps to maintain healthy bones, and exercise which gets you out of breath maintains a healthy cardiovascular system.

“We know structured exercise helps to keep your joints healthy, giving you a fighting chance of reduced back, hip and knee pain and that healthy muscles are crucial to living life well.”

“People don’t have to get out and train for a marathon straight off. Yoga or Pilates keeps joints flexible. Gyms and fitness facilities cater for every level and encourage people to get fitter,” says Beddie.

“Also, research supports a link between social interaction and good health. Moderate exercise tends to be as good or better for longevity than vigorous activities such as running, which can take a toll on the body over time. Any exercise is better than none.”

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