What the health: Can exercise keep us young?

23 May 2019

Evidence suggests that regular exercise contributes to improved health, longevity and quality of life, and that poor fitness is a risk factor for mortality and the development of chronic disease.

Recent data reveals that over two thirds of Australian adults aged 30 to 65 years—nearly 13 million people—are at risk of the nation’s biggest killer, heart disease. One of these risk factors is doing very little, or no, exercise. Regular exercise is able to target or manage other risk factors too, including improved blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and reduced obesity compared with sedentary ageing.

Ageing causes a loss in muscle strength, mass and endurance associated with poor physical function and fitness. However, it has been shown that in people who do regular exercise such as fast-paced walking, cycling and strength training this does not occur, or the development is slowed. The benefits also appear to occur beyond the muscles of regular exercisers, with improvements in balance, and immune system function.

Regular exercise also appears to keep the brain young and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, with higher fitness associated with improved brain health in older age. Indeed, exercising above the public health recommendations provides added benefit to disease protection.

Find out more about the benefits of exercise on Australia’s physical activity website, Exercise Right, developed by Exercise and Sport Science Australia.

AUTHOR:Dr Tom Bailey Dr Tom Bailey is a Research Fellow at UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. Tom’s research interest is in cardiovascular physiology, healthy ageing and cardiovascular disease; focussing on the benefits of exercise training for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Tom also aims to understand changes in vascular function with age, menopause and disease.