JAMA / Archives – Women who regularly participated in physical activity during middle age appear more likely to be in better overall health when they reach 70 years of age and older. Qi Sun, M.D., Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School and colleagues analyzed data from 13,535 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study.

The women reported their physical activity levels in 1986, at an average age of 60. Among those who had survived to age 70 or older as of 1995 to 2001, those who had higher levels of physical activity at the beginning of the study were less likely to have chronic diseases, heart surgery or any physical, cognitive or mental impairments, testifying to the place of physical activity in women’ health and preventive medicine.

“Since the American population is aging rapidly and nearly a quarter of Americans do not engage in any leisure-time activity, our findings appear to support federal guidelines regarding physical activity to promote health among older people and further emphasize the potential of activity to enhance overall health and well-being with aging,” the authors conclude regarding the anti-aging benefits of exercise. “The notion that physical activity can promote successful survival rather than simply extend the lifespan may provide particularly strong motivation for initiating activity” (Arch Intern Med. 2010;170[2]:194-201).