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The benefits of exercise and healthy living increase as we get older

A healthy group of women exercising.

According to recent Australian research, one of the best ways to maintain strength and vitality as we move through life is to avoid or quit smoking and to regularly exercise.

This study, by the University of Sydney, suggests that older people with an unhealthy lifestyle are twice as likely to end up in a care home than their active peers. Smoking, physical inactivity, sitting for long periods and poor sleep quality were also found to be associated with a higher risk of nursing home admission.

Interestingly, diet quality was not seen in the study to be a major factor in the above.

Researchers from the university studied data from more than 127,000 Australians who took part in research on healthy ageing between 2006 and 2009.

The study’s participants were divided into three risk groups based on five lifestyle factors; smoking, physical activity, sitting, sleep quality and diet quality, and then followed for an average of 11 years by researchers.

A quarter of these participants (24 per cent) were placed in the lowest risk group with a score of nine or 10 points, almost two-thirds (62 per cent) were in the medium risk group with a score of six to eight points and 14 per cent were in the unhealthiest group with a score below five points.

The research team also found that over-60s who eat badly and spend too much time on the sofa were 43 per cent more likely to end up in a nursing home compared with the fittest retirees. Those with a moderately healthy lifestyle, meanwhile, were 12 per