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New study shows physical decline starts in 50s

aging construction worker

Photo: Kuzma/iStockphoto

Durham, NC – Many people begin to experience physical decline when they are in their 50s, indicating a need to work on maintaining or improving strength and endurance earlier in life, according to a new study from Duke University.

From 2012 to 2014, researchers studied 775 participants ranging in age from 30 to 100. The participants took part in various strength, endurance and balance activities, including repeatedly rising from a chair for 30 seconds, standing on one leg for a minute and walking for six minutes. Their speed was tracked as they walked for approximately 10 yards.

A decline in physical ability was seen among participants in their 50s, regardless of gender and other demographics. Men and women in their 50s began to have difficulty standing on one leg and rising from a chair. Those in their 60s and 70s lost endurance and walking speed.

Overall, men outperformed women, and younger participants fared better than older ones.

“Our research reinforces a life-span approach to maintaining physical ability – don’t wait until you are 80 years old and cannot get out of a chair,” lead author Katherine S. Hall, assistant professor of medicine at Duke, said in a press release. “With proper attention and effort, the ability to function independently can often be preserved with regular exercise.”

The study was published online June 29 in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.

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