Starting exercise in mid life linked to longer life

It's never too late to lead a longer, healthier life, irrespective of past lifestyles and activity levels, according to research into the effects of exercise. 

A large UK study has found that boosting activity in middle age, even by a small amount, can significantly improve health and longevity. Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that achieving at least the minimum recommendations of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity could prevent 46% of deaths associated with physical inactivity.

The study, published on June 26 2019 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) involved 14,600 men and women between the ages of 40 and 79, recruited between 1993 and 1997. Participants underwent four assessments up until 2004. Deaths were recorded until 2016. There were 3,100 deaths recorded, including 1,000 from cancer, and 1,000 from heart disease.

Researchers concluded that increases in physical activity over time resulted in lower risk of death. This is good news if you haven't led a particularly active life so far.

Soren Brage, senior author of the study and researcher at the University of Cambridge, said: “This sends a strong message to all of us, irrespective of what our current life circumstances may be, since it is never too late to build physical activity into your daily routine in order to enjoy a longer healthier life."

He added: “Everybody benefitted from becoming more active. This was also true for the subgroup of people who already had a serious chronic condition such as heart disease and cancer at baseline. Becoming physically active in mid-life can extend longevity.”

Even small changes can help 

It doesn't take much to increase your activity levels but it does take consistency. We work with clients to develop active working environments in the workplace. This can involve:

  • Installing sit-stand desks - moving between sitting and standing throughout the day not only activates the muscles and elevates the heart rate, it also prevents prolonged poor postures associated with musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and RSI.
  • Encouraging the 20-8-2 working pattern - this is where each 30 minute chunk of work is broken down to 20 minutes of sitting, eight minutes of standing and two minutes of moving or stretching.
  • Sharing information about benefits of moving more - our monthly newsletter always contains resources to help inspire people to develop healthier working habits. You can sign up here.
  • Encouraging regular microbreaks - our microbreaks infographic explains what microbreaks are and how they help.

Some employers also offer health incentives like cycle schemes, free fruit, lunchtime yoga sessions and subsidised gym memberships to encourage healthier lifestyles.

To find out more about active working, and how we can help you improve the health of your workforce, please visit our active working page.