Study: Exercise lowers chronic disease risk

Exercise has long been recognized as one of the hallmarks of healthy aging, and an extensive new study offers some compelling new evidence as to why. Researchers found adults over 50 who stay fit have a lower chance of developing chronic disease and enjoy an overall improved quality of life, according to Reuters Health.

The study, which was recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, analyzed the fitness levels of more than 18,600 older adults, all of whom had no health problems at the onset of the research. Based on their fitness at age 50, the team followed the subjects over the course of 26 years and discovered those who were in better shape were considerably less likely to develop chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

The results shed some light on the often-mysterious area of quality of life. While exercise and physical activity may be tied to a longer lifespan in some instances, what the findings suggest is that adults who exercise may also enjoy their life more.

"It has been known for decades that if you are more fit, you live longer," study author Dr. Jarett Berry at told Reuters Health. "But it has not been clear that you have a higher quality of life, that you age better."

The study analyzed the fitness levels of older adults based on how fast they ran on a treadmill, but any kind of physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults over 65 get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, whether it be in the form of walking, swimming or doing work around the yard. The CDC also suggests two days of strength-building exercises.