TUESDAY, Nov. 26, 2013 (HealthDay News) — A new study finds that exercise among older adults helps ward off depression, dementia and other health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Exercise increased the odds of healthy aging as much as sevenfold, the researchers found. And apparently it’s never too late to start: Even adults who don’t begin exercising until they’re older could increase their odds of healthy aging threefold, the researchers said.
"In a growing elderly population, it is important to encourage healthy aging. Physical activity is effective in maintaining health in old age," said lead researcher Mark Hamer, from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, in England.
"Encouraging physical activity in older adults is of benefit, and small changes are also linked to healthier aging," he said.
The report was published online Nov. 25 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist and exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said it’s well known that physical activity and exercise are good for you. “Regular exercise staves off chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression,” she said.
"What this study emphasizes is that the ‘I’m too old’ excuse doesn’t fly, because it is never too late to get your fanny off the couch and out the door for some exercise," she said.
The benefits of exercise include better circulation and improved bone, muscle, cardiovascular and organ health. Even the brain benefits from regular exercise, which increases communication between neurons and slows the brain tissue loss associated with aging and mental decline, Heller said.
"The question we face now is, How do we motivate and support people of all ages to get moving and keep moving? There is an undeniable resistance among non-exercisers to the notion of motion," Heller said. "On an individual level, we can gently insist that family and friends join us in regular walks, a dance or yoga class, a game of tag, or an exercise DVD."
Partnering with someone is a real motivator, Heller said. “Give a session with a qualified personal trainer as a holiday gift; explore fitness-class offerings at the local YMCA or community or senior centers; or sign up for a charity walk, run or swim.”
For the study, Hamer and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,500 people with an average age of 64 who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.
As part of the study, the participants reported their level of physical activity every two years between 2002-‘03 and 2010-‘11.
The researchers categorized the participants by how much exercise they did each week. Source:
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In addition, the researchers kept track of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, emphysema and Alzheimer’s disease. They also monitored the participants’ mental health and physical.
Over eight years, almost one in 10 participants became active and 70 percent remained active. The others stayed inactive or became inactive.
By the end of the study, almost 40 percent of the participants developed a chronic medical condition, nearly 20 percent were depressed, 20 percent were mentally impaired and one-third had a disability.
One in five, however, was considered by the researchers to be a “healthy ager.” There was a direct association between healthy aging and exercise, the researchers said, although they did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
People who partook in moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were three to four times more likely to be healthy agers, compared with those who remained inactive, the researchers found.
Moreover, people who were active at the start of the study were seven times more likely to be healthy agers than people who were inactive and remained so, the researchers found.
For more on the benefits of exercise, visit the .
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Retired Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony J. DeFino, 86, who made his mark in the judiciary but never strayed far from his South Philadelphia roots, died Sunday, Nov. 24, in a fire at his home.
The fire was reported at 7:07 p.m. at the judge’s three-story house near 20th and Porter Streets. The one-alarm blaze was under control by 7:41 p.m., said Capt. Clifford Gilliam, a Fire Department spokesman.
The judge was found in the living room on the first floor. His wife, Rose, escaped the fire and was hospitalized in stable condition, Gilliam said.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation by the Fire Marshal’s Office, Gilliam said. The judge was the city’s 22d person to die in a fire this year.
The cause of death was unclear pending the completion of an autopsy, said Jeff Moran, city Health Department spokesman.
Hours after his death, friends and colleagues remembered Judge DeFino as a consummate gentleman and jurist.
"He was a respected mentor in the legal profession, a touchstone for so many who aspired to the law, and a treasured friend and colleague to countless lawyers, judges, and public officials," said Kathleen D. Wilkinson, chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association.
Wilkinson praised Judge DeFino as exemplifying what she called the finest ideals in a jurist - strong character, sound judgment, and professional commitment.
Judge DeFino, 86, served for 19 years before retiring from the bench in 2007. Lately, he served as a legal consultant to District Attorney Seth Williams, helping young prosecutors polish their courtroom skills and acting as a liaison between the judiciary and the District Attorney’s Office.
"He loved being here," Williams said Monday. "He loved being part of the energy, and he considered himself part of the City of Philadelphia up until the end."
As soon as he heard about the blaze, Williams, who has known the DeFinos since 1981, went to the fire scene Sunday night with his family to offer support.
"This is devastating to my family, my kids," Williams said. "We loved the judge like a member of our family."
Raised on East Passyunk Avenue, Judge DeFino graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1946. He served in the Army and, on his return, earned bachelor’s and law degrees from Temple University.
He was admitted to the bar in 1956 and was appointed to the Common Pleas Court bench by Gov. Robert P. Casey in June 1988.
Judge DeFino was elected in November 1989 to a 10-year term. He became a senior judge in 1997 and served for 10 more years in Common Pleas Court’s Major Trial Division.
In 2002, DeFino and his daughter, Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi, 39, made news as the city’s first father and daughter to serve on the bench at the same time.
Williams came to know the judge after being assigned to Courtroom 907, where Judge DeFino presided. “I learned a lot from him,” Williams said. “He was a wealth of natural reasoning and common sense. He told great stories, and he treated victims and witnesses, and defendants and jurors, with tremendous respect.”
He minced no words, Williams said: “He called it like he saw it, like an umpire in a baseball game.”
In 2001, Judge DeFino received the Thurgood Marshall Award, the highest honor presented by the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, for his dedication to improving the standards of justice in the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania courts.
Judge DeFino was grand master of the Order of Brotherly Love. He was founder and former president of the Frank Palumbo Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy in America.
He was known for his snappy dressing, his quick wit, and the jokes he told employees at the Criminal Justice Center.
"Above all, he never forgot where he came from," his family said in a statement.
Surviving, in addition to his daughter, are his wife of 61 years, the former Rose Graziano; sons Michael, Eugene, Anthony, Thomas, and Vincent; daughter Carmela; 20 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Julia Sheeran, died earlier.
Viewings will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29, and 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at St. Monica Roman Catholic Church, 17th and Ritner Streets, followed at by the Funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Interment is in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery.
Contributions may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, 555 E. North Lane, No. 5010, Conshohocken, Pa. 19428.