Exercise increases chances of staying functional in extreme old age, study finds

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It's never too late to reap the benefits of physical activity, authors of a new report say. They found that exercise increases functionality and life span, even among the oldest of the old.

The study of seniors born in 1920 and 1921 found that seniors who exercised more than four hours per week and performed vigorous activities, such as swimming or jogging twice a week, significantly reduced their likelihood of dying over the course of the study. The more active members of the elderly cohort were more likely to live independently and retain their ability to perform activities of daily living. The benefits were especially noticeable for those who remained active well into their 80s (64% of the group). They reduced their risk of dying between age 85 and 88 by 17% compared to the more sedentary of the bunch.

Recent reports have suggested that exercise can help seniors increase blood flow and help prevent muscle loss, results that are born out in this study. (McKnight's, 9/14/09) The full study appears in the Sept. 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.