The Importance of Exercise at Any Age

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Researchers have more evidence of the importance of exercise at any age. Previous studies showed older adults who exercise regularly burn more calories at rest than their sedentary counterparts.

Now, a new Colorado University, Boulder, study shows active older adults who slow down their physical activity sustain severe drops in their resting metabolism in less than a week. And that happens even when they reduce their caloric intake accordingly. Such a metabolic slowdown can set the stage for weight gain and associated problems, including increased risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, scientists said. "This is further evidence of the importance of exercise for older people," said lead study author Christopher Bell who presented the findings at an experimental biology meeting in Orlando. "Declines in the resting metabolic rate increase the challenge of weight maintenance and most likely contribute to the high prevalence of age-associated obesity and higher incidences of related diseases."

In the study, the exercise of 62-to-67-year-old usually active men and women was restricted by the equivalent of 400 calories a day. Their caloric intake was cut by the same amount. Even so, their resting metabolic rate plummeted from an average of 1,248 calories on day one to 1,155 calories on day five. "Older people who grow sedentary must continually restrict their caloric intake to maintain healthy weight, a change that eventually may limit their ability to achieve recommended daily allowances of vitamins and nutrients," Bell. said. "In a word, the message is exercise."