More evidence supporting the value of exercise in preventing diseases of aging is out today: A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a strength-training program reduced the risk of a certain kind of cognitive decline—executive function, associated with decision making and focusing on something without becoming distracted.
As the authors of an editorial accompanying the study write:
It is also now well established that higher quantities of physical activity have beneficial effects on numerous age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis, falls and hip fracture, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis,low fitness and obesity, and decreased functional capacity,all conditions that greatly increase the risk of reduced independence in late life.Regular physical activity has also been associated with greater longevity as well as reduced risk of physical disability and dependence, the most important health outcome, even morethan death, for most older people.
Still, the editorial's authors write, more randomized controlled trials are needed to see whether prescribing a long-term exercise program in the populations who are at most risk of disability, cognitive decline, and other age-related problems can make a difference. One study, Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, will next year start recruiting study participants to answer the question of whether a structured exercise program can prevent major mobility disability, they write.
While it by no means constitutes scientific evidence, I recently talked to seven people in their 90s and 100s who are prime examples of successful aging. All are active both physically—whether through formal exercise or just daily movement—and mentally, via work, volunteering, or other pastimes.