A new study has found that physical activity in early adulthood ensures the maintenance of physical performance as we age.
"Maintaining physical performance and muscle strength with age is important given that lower levels in older populations are associated with increased risk of subsequent health problems, loss of independence, and shorter survival times," commented lead investigator Rachel Cooper, PhD, Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing.
"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.
"We found that there are cumulative benefits of physical activity across adulthood on physical performance in mid-life," she added.
The study used data from about 2400 men and women from the UK Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development.
They analysed 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.
Researchers found that 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 covariates. However, 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 study has been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.