You already know exercise has benefits while you’re doing it, but can it have benefits many years later even after you stop? When you stop working out, your aerobic capacity will decrease back to baseline over weeks to months and all of your strength gains will follow. Or will they? Exciting new research shows that exercise carried out earlier in life may have benefits many years down the road.
The Benefits of Exercise: Do They Continue Even After You Stop?
Researchers from the U.K. and Australia looked at the physical activity levels of 2400 women and men. They were interested in how active these individuals were at ages 36, 43 and 53 years of age. When the individuals were 53 years old they did a series of physical fitness tests on them including a chair rise to measure their lower body strength, grip strength and a standing balance test. They repeated the same series of tests 11 years later to see how the results compared.
How did they perform? The men and women who were the most active at the three earlier ages had superior results on the chair rise test, a test that measures lower body strength. In addition, those who were most active at age 43 and 53 showed improvements in balance when tested by the standing balance test. Grip strength didn’t improve in women on the second testing regardless of their level of previous activity, while men who were most active at age 53 showed some improvement in their hand grip strength.
Despite the fact these men and women no longer were as physically active as they were years before they still retained some of the benefits of exercise including greater lower body strength and balance. So even though you may not have the same aerobic capacity or muscle strength if you stop exercising, some of the benefits may stay with you. It’s possible that some of the health benefits such as a reduction in the risk of heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes may follow you too, although this hasn’t been adequately researched.
Of course, why should give up something that has so many benefits? Exercise reduces the risk of a variety of diseases including obesity and it even improves your mental health. Still, it’s good to know if you have to take a break due to illness or an unexpected surgery or injury, all of the benefits you worked so hard to achieve won’t vanish. Keep exercising. It’s one of the best anti-aging medicines there is.
Medscape.com. “Exercise in Early Adulthood Improves Fitness Later”