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Being fit in middle age is as good as exercising in youth

Getting fit in middle age halves risk of stroke later in life (Figure)

Getting fit in middle age cuts the risk of stroke in half later in life, researchers have found.

Scientists say it’s never too late to exercise – and the change in your life can be seen quickly even after years of inactivity.

Notably, they found that men who got off the couch and started exercising in their 40s and 50s saw their stroke risk drop to levels seen in those who exercised during their youth.

Findings from experts in Norway offer hope that it is not too late to get fit for the millions of middle-aged people in Britain who do very little exercise.

Erik Prestgaard, a physician at Oslo University Hospital’s cardiology department, said that even after decades of little physical activity, people who change their habits during this period can dramatically improve their chances of a healthy retirement.

Getting fit in middle age halves risk of stroke later in life (Figure)

Getting fit in middle age halves risk of stroke later in life (Figure)


Just 30 minutes of exercise makes women feel slimmer and more confident, June research found.

Being active for half an hour makes us feel stronger and significantly better in terms of body fat, a study has found.

These body-conscious emotions last for at least 20 minutes after exercise, the research adds.

Study author Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis from the University of British Columbia said: “We think that women’s feelings of strength and empowerment after exercise stimulate better internal dialogue.

“This in turn should generate positive thoughts and feelings about their bodies that can replace the all-too-common negative ones.”

“If you get fit or stay fit, it makes no difference.”

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“If you get fit or stay fit, it makes no difference,” he said.

“That’s the good news – if you’re 50 and unfit over the next few years, you can get fit and reduce your risk. It’s never too late to get in shape.”

But crucially, his team also found that people who don’t have control over their health at this point see their risk of stroke rise.

Because while the 40s and 50s seem to offer a window in which people can turn their health around, those who don’t see the odds stacked against them in the years to come.

Presenting their findings at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, ​​the research team found that not exercising in these key years can have a disastrous impact on health in later life.

Public Health England warned last week that Britain is in the midst of an “inactivity epidemic”, which has seen physical activity fall by 20 per cent since the 1960s.

Officials are particularly concerned about the 6.3 million middle-aged people — 41 percent of the age group — who don’t go for a brisk walk once a month.

Up to 56% lower risk of stroke

The research team followed 2,000 men between the ages of 40 and 60 from the 1970s.

Participants were initially followed for seven years to see how their exercise habits changed.

Their physical fitness was monitored using stress tests on cycling machines.

Surprisingly, most of the participants – 65 percent – ​​actually became less fit during those seven years, and only 35 percent started exercising more.

The researchers then followed the group for another 23 years, during which one in eight people suffered a stroke.

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Those who increased their exercise the most over the seven-year period were 56 percent less likely to have a stroke later, compared to those who became more inactive.

Findings offer hope it's not too late to get fit for millions of people who exercise very little

Findings offer hope it’s not too late to get fit for millions of people who exercise very little

‘Making an effort will protect you’

Dr. Prestgaard said: “The men who rose the most were not fit at all, they went from low levels and moved up.

“A lot of these men were just getting together.

He added: “The findings are important because they show that even modest increases in cardiorespiratory fitness in middle-aged men can significantly reduce the risk of stroke. It’s a really big risk reduction – 56 percent.”

Crucially, Dr. Prestgaard found no difference in outcomes between those who had been fit all their lives and those who suddenly decided to start working out actively.

And he said it wouldn’t take much effort for someone to turn their life around.

“They weren’t on any kind of fitness program,” he said.

“They weren’t marathon runners or anything like that.

“So it’s safe to say that as a normal person, you’re able to improve your fitness by making an effort, and that will protect you.”

But he warned that people who let themselves go at this time – which his study suggests most people do – will be stacking the odds against themselves for years to come.

“The findings suggest that a decline in fitness increases the risk of stroke,” he said.

“Some of them probably let go. They were between 40 and 60 years old when they started and some of them probably cycled to work and then retired and didn’t move as much.

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“You can’t let go because you’ll lose the protection you had. If you’re in good shape when you’re 50, you can’t just stop working out and coast on what you’ve got. You have to get on with it.”

Dr Prestgaard admitted that the findings were limited – because the team only looked at men, it was unclear whether they would apply to women.

The team also only looked at stroke risk, so other health factors such as heart disease and cancer may benefit more from being fit at a younger age.

“Regular exercise is known to have many positive effects”

Richard Francis, head of research awards at the Stroke Association, said: “Everyone can take steps to reduce their risk of stroke by making simple lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet, regular exercise and stopping smoking.

“Regular exercise is known to have many positive effects, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight, improving mood and also increasing fitness.”

Professor Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser to Public Health England, who launched the organisation’s new activity campaign last week, said: “We all know that physical activity is good for your health, but for the first time we are seeing the transformative effects of easy-to-achieve changes. can do.’

An estimated 100,000 people suffer a stroke in Britain each year – a number that is expected to rise in the coming years.

A quarter of patients die within a year, and of those who survive, half are left with long-term disability, which can include paralysis, speech problems and personality changes.

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