Health & Wellness

It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

Even if you’ve been sedentary, taking up exercise can keep you alive longer

Photo: iStock/Ridofranz.


A study of more than 315,000 Americans’ health over the past 20 years has shown that those who exercised for between two and eight hours a week in their teenage years and into their 60s were 29% to 36% less likely to have died than those who didn’t exercise. If reading that makes you anxious because you haven’t been exercising, don’t worry. The same study, from the US National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, also found that those who began exercising just as regularly after their 40s also lowered their risk for an premature death by practically the same amount—32% to 35%.

“We had anticipated that participants who maintained the highest levels of activity throughout adulthood would be at lowest risk and were surprised to find that increasing activity early or late in adulthood was associated with comparable benefits,” the study’s authors wrote. “These benefits held similarly for men and women.”

Based on health statistics from National Institutes of Health and published in JAMA Network Open, the study shows that exercise at any age will reduce your risk for the two leading causes of death: cancers and cardiovascular diseases. Cancer rates were 16% lower among those who began exercising in their 40s and late 50s, with cardiovascular disease rates 43% lower. Cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiac arrest, as well as coronary heart disease.