Study: Obesity Doesn't Always Predict Heart Risks
Obese people aren't necessarily at greater risk of heart disease, a new study suggests. "The people really at risk are the ones who have obesity in combination with other metabolic health risk factors," study author Mark Hamer, a research associate at University College London, told Reuters. "People with good metabolic health are not at risk of future heart disease—even if they are obese." Metabolic health refers to normal levels of markers like blood pressure, blood sugar, HDL cholesterol, and C-reactive protein, which measures inflammation in the body. People who aren't obese but in poor metabolic shape face as much risk of heart disease as unhealthy obese people, according to findings published today in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. The study suggests that metabolic factors may be a more important indicator of a person's risk of cardiovascular disease than excess body weight itself.
Exercise Is Healthy, but Does It Make You Live Longer?
As 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65, health officials are bracing themselves for a tsunami of chronic ills, from arthritis to osteoporosis. Yet a growing body of evidence shows that regular exercise can delay or prevent many age-related ailments, even among longtime couch potatoes.
"There's compelling data that older individuals participating in exercise programs show dramatic improvement in function and abilities," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego. In fact, experts suggest that many ills once attributed to normal aging are now being viewed as a result of chronic inactivity.
Despite this promising message, fewer than 5 percent of seniors follow the recommended guidelines for physical fitness (30 minutes of moderately intense exercise on most days). "Levels of activity in people 65 and older haven't budged in decades," says Miriam Nelson, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Even if they've never exercised, the middle-aged and older can still benefit by beginning now. Experts say sedentary people will actually fare better in percentage gains relative to active people, since they're starting from zero. "It doesn't matter how old you are," says Colin Milner, founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It's never too late to start exercising." [Read more: Exercise Is Healthy, but Does It Make You Live Longer?]
Your Guide to Exercising Through the Ages
What's the golden ticket to living well into your golden years? A lifelong exercise program, says Pamela Peeke, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Specifically, a program that adapts to your physiological needs as you age. "Exercise is age-specific," says Peeke, author of Fit to Live and Body-for-LIFE for Women. "And you want to start as young as possible."
If you wait until age 65 to start exercising, you'll still benefit somewhat: Research has shown that you can, indeed, take steps to reverse the effects of inactivity later in life, and with considerable success. But why take the hard route? Fitness is like retirement savings, Peeke suggests: Wait until later to start socking away "body currency," and you'll get much less bang for your buck. You'll be trying to amass strength and endurance just as your energy and lean muscle mass have dwindled.
But start with a simple, well-rounded fitness plan now, and modest upkeep can take you spryly into your 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. All you have to do is stay consistent. "I've seen 100-year-olds who are more active than some 20-year-olds," Peeke says. However, most people neglect their fitness regimens as they get older: Only 30 percent of people ages 45 to 64, 25 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds, and 11 percent of people 85 and older say they exercise regularly, according to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). [Read more: Your Guide to Exercising Through the Ages]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.