Have you ever wondered whether the effort of staying fit is worth it?
Getting up early to exercise before work? Or fitting in some exercise after work when you really don't feel like it?
Perhaps the idea of holding off exercising until you retire and have more time is an appealing thought.
Especially given that the real impact of low levels of physical fitness and muscle strength occur in older populations and are associated with increased risk of health problems, loss of independence, and shorter survival times.
Researchers have just reported on a study in which they examined the associations of physical activity across adulthood with physical performance and strength in midlife in a group of British men and women that they followed since birth in March 1946.
The researchers stated that as the global population ages, there is a growing need to identify modifiable factors across life that influence physical performance and strength in later life.
The study found that there are cumulative benefits of physical activity across adulthood on physical performance in mid-life.
They suggested that increased activity should be promoted early in adulthood to ensure the maintenance of physical performance in later life and that promotion of leisure time activity is likely to become increasingly important in younger populations as people's daily routines become more sedentary.
In the study they analyzed self-reported leisure time physical activity (LTPA) levels at 36, 43 and 53 years of age. During the 53-year investigation, grip strength, standing balance, and chair rise times were measured as indicators of strength and physical performance.
Grip strength is a measure of upper-body muscle condition. Chair-rise times are associated with lower body strength and power, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness. Standing balance requires mental concentration and subtle motor control and measures a number of neurophysiological and sensory systems.
Participants who were more active at all three ages showed better performance on the chair-rise test. Persons more active at ages 43 and 53 had better performance on the standing balance test, even after adjusting for other variables. Physical activity and grip strength were not associated in women and, in men, only physical activity at age 53 was associated with grip strength.
The investigators state that the findings in relation to chair rising and standing balance performance suggest that promotion of physical activity across adulthood would have beneficial effects on physical performance later in life and hence the functional health and quality of life of the aging population.
While getting out of a chair, keeping your balance and gripping objects may not seem difficult activities for you now, being able to keep doing them for the rest of your life is very important. It is the inability to do these that puts you at risk of losing your independence and suffering injuries due to falls.
The key message from this study is that it is safer and more effective to maintain your strength and fitness throughout your life than wait until you get older and try to regain it.
From my experience, both personally and with clients, it is easier to stay fit than to get fit.
So next time that little voice says you are too busy to exercise and why don't you wait until you have more time, remember that what you do now has a major effect on what you will be able to do in years to come.