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With Long-Term Exercise, Being 80 Is Just a Number
Date:5/11/2010

Seniors find that strength, flexibility can remain, and heart risks fall

TUESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- In 1977, Jimmy Carter was president, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was in theaters and smoking was still permitted in most public buildings. That was the year Lawrence Golding, now 81, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, started a no-frills, boot-camp-style exercise class for men, held weekdays at lunchtime in a building on campus.

Some of those men, aged 30 to 51 when the class began, stuck with the program for more than 20 years. And today they're reaping the benefits of that commitment.

Now graying and many of them grandfathers, they have cholesterol and triglyceride levels that are better than when they were younger, and their aerobic capacity, flexibility and strength have not shown expected age-related declines.

"My definition of aging is when you can't do the things physically that you used to do when you were years younger," said Golding, who led the exercise class until it was disbanded a couple of years ago because of logistical issues with parking and finding a meeting space on campus. "People who exercise regularly continue doing the things they used to do when they were in their 20s."

Along with a healthy diet, staying mentally active and socially engaged, exercise is emerging as one of the key ways of staving off chronic diseases and, in general, staying healthier in old age, experts say.

In fact, next to maintaining a healthy weight, exercise in men was found to be the most important factor in warding off heart failure, or the loss of ability to pump blood that can lead to death, according to a study published in mid-2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Among men who exercised five or more times a week, 11 percent developed heart failure, compared with 14 percent who didn't exercise, the study found.


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