Four studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine have revealed that taking regular exercise helps you to stay physically healthier and mentally sharper into old age.
One of the studies found that women who exercised more during middle age -- defined as an average age of 60 by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School -- were less likely after 70 to develop chronic diseases, heart surgery or any physical, cognitive or mental impairments.
Another study found that a year of resistance training, once or twice a week, improved older women's attention spans and conflict resolution skills.
A third found that adults aged 55 and older who engaged in moderate or high physical activity were less likely to become cognitively impaired than their couch-potato equivalents.
And women aged 65 or older who took part in an exercise program for 18 months appeared to have denser bones and a reduced risk of falls than women the same age who followed a less intense "wellness" program, a fourth study showed.
The findings of the studies, which were conducted in Canada, Germany and the United States, could be just what the doctor ordered to get more Americans to exercise, the authors of the first study said.
"Since the American population is aging rapidly and nearly a quarter of Americans do not engage in any leisure-time activity, our findings appear to support federal guidelines regarding physical activity to promote health among older people and further emphasize the potential of activity to enhance overall health and well-being with aging," the authors of that study said.
"The notion that physical activity can promote successful survival rather than simply extend the lifespan may provide particularly strong motivation for initiating activity," they said.