We live in a world in which most people do not undertake anywhere near the level of physical activity that is optimal. Thus adding greater physical activity as a lifestyle choice appears very beneficial. There is a great deficiency, one that has serious consequences to health, and fixing that deficiency is touted as a successful intervention. But in reality, the situation is one in which most people harm their long term health through a form of self-neglect. This era of cheap calories and comfort is a time of vast benefits for humanity – but it has a few downsides, and this is one of them.
This meta-analysis showed a protective effect of physical activity to successful aging among the middle-aged and older adults. The protective effect of physical activity to successful aging was larger on the younger group than the older group. Being physically active in earlier life is beneficial to successful aging in later life. However, the effect of physical activity on successful aging decreased as time elapsed. Physically active middle-aged and older adults were more likely to age successfully than sedentary adults (odds ratio 1.64). The effect of physical activity was stronger in the younger group (odds ratio 1.71) than on the older group (odds ratio 1.54). The protective effect of physical activity reduced annually by approximately 3%.
Physical activity prevents the development of many chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke, dyslipidemia, cognitive impairment, depression, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and sarcopenia. Physical activity also increases longevity and survival. For middle-aged and older people, a dose-response relationship was found between physical activity and decrease in mortality. Compared with sedentary older people, physically active older adults were more likely to remain living independently. Physical activity in old age preserves the cognitive and physical functions. These previous findings supported the main finding of the present meta-analysis.
Physical activity is a protective factor of successful aging in the middle-aged and older adults. Although some included studies showed a weak association between physical activity and successful aging, most studies reported a consistent positive relationship. Further research is warranted to establish the dose-response relationship between physical activity and successful aging as well as to reduce the effects of time.