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It has been reported that older runners tend live longer and suffer lesser disabilities compared to healthy non-runners. This is applicable to several aerobic exercises, including walking.
A study by authors from Stanford University School of Medicine, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, revealed that being active decreases disability and increases survival.
There are benefits of vigorous activity late in life. Earlier it was believed that vigorous exercise would harm older individuals. Particularly, running would cause joint and bone injuries. However, this study proves otherwise.
In all, 284 runners and 156 healthy controls, or non–runners, completed annual questionnaires over a period of 21years. The participants were >50 years of age at study initiation and ran an average of about four hours a week. By the end of the study period, the participants had reached their 70s or 80s or older and ran close to 76 minutes per week. At 19 years, only 15% of the runners had died, while the figure was 34%among the non–runners.
In the study, running delayed the onset of disability by an average of 16 years.
It is important to be physically active through our whole life, not just in our 20s or 40s.
One should take lessons from Yudhishthir in Mahabharata who walked till his death. However, a word of caution, if an elderly person is walking or entering into an exercise program, he or she should have a cardiac evaluation done to rule out underlying heart blockages.