The strongest, best-coordinated, fastest older women with the most endurance live the longest. French women over the age of 75 were tested to see how fast they could walk (speed), how many chair stands they could do (endurance), how well they could balance themselves (coordination), and the pressure of their handgrip (strength). Women at the low end of scores for the total of the four tests and for each test were at increased risk for dying in the next four years (European Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 21, 2006).
Strength, speed, endurance and coordination are measures of fitness, determined by how active you are and how much exercise you get. What you do now is more important than what you did in your younger years. More than fifty years ago, a study showed that college football players die younger than their non-athletic classmates. Data acquired many years later showed that some hormones, such as insulin-like growth factor-1, help muscles and bones to grow and make a person a better athlete. However, these same hormones cause fat cells to fill with fat which increases a person’s chances of suffering diabetes and heart attacks. Obesity is a major risk factor for premature death. If athletes continue to exercise and do not become overweight in their later years, they probably are not at increased risk for premature death.
Any type of exercise can help to control your weight and protect your health. However, out-of-shape people are the ones at highest risk for sudden death during exercise. If you are out of shape, ask your doctor to give you a nuclear stress test to determine your susceptibility to heart damage during exercise. If you pass the test, you should start a supervised exercise program today.
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