People are living well into their eighth or ninth decade, but not necessarily in the good health they assumed advances in medical science would make possible. Fortunately, a recent study has found that starting an exercise program in mid-life can help you stay healthier and more fit through old age, so you can really enjoy those additional years.

Published in Archives of Internal Medicine, the study indicates that becoming fit in middle age delays the onset of debilitating chronic illnesses and physical decline for a much longer period than being sedentary – or compounding a fondness for the couch with poor nutritional choices. According to the study, middle-age people who work out regularly can expect to live with chronic disease for only the last five years of their life – instead of the final 10 to 20 years of those who don’t.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute in Dallas. The researchers gathered medical records for 18,670 middle-age men and women who had visited the Cooper Clinic (the medical division of the Cooper Institute) for a standard physical exam in 1970.

The subjects had an average age of 49, and were healthy and free of chronic illness. All had taken a treadmill test to determine their aerobic fitness. Based on the results, the group was divided into five fitness categories. From the years 1999 through 2009 – when most participants were in their 70s or 80s – researches checked their Medicare claim records (study participants gave permission).

Their findings: People who had been the least fit at the time the study began were the most likely to have developed serious or chronic conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s – early in the aging process. Those who had been the most aerobically fit did not experience such illnesses until much later, resulting in a higher quality of life.

So don’t assume it’s too late to start a fitness program because you remember when phones had a rotary dial. Future Fitness members have access to the fitness industry’s leading personal trainers, who can plan a workout program that will allow you to build muscle tone, strength and stamina in a safe manner. Plunging into an exercise program by doing too much too soon is a common cause of injury – which is definitely counterproductive.

Our excellent fitness classes and programs appeal to a wide range of interests, and offer something for people at every level of fitness. You’re sure to find an exercise routine you enjoy!

Just remember fitness icon Jack LaLanne’s famous declaration that he’d rather wear out than rust out. Although he passed earlier this year at age 96, no one could say he broke down. LaLanne lived every day to the fullest, remaining active and enthusiastic. We should all do the same to not only live as long as LaLanne, but as well.