Many physical problems that we associate with getting older are actually the result of inactivity. Physical fitness is important at every age, but for people over 50, it is crucial to a longer and healthier life-- and true fitness can only be developed through consistent daily exercise. Too often, people launch into random, one-time exertions and hope that these efforts will counteract an otherwise sedentary life. In fact, consistency is necessary in order to reap the benefits of exercise.

Your body learns to absorb more oxygen

When physicians evaluate the level of a patient's physical fitness, one important metric they look at is the maximum oxygen uptake. This is a number that shows the greatest amount of oxygen that your body can absorb during intense exercise, and it serves to indicate the overall level of your body's cardiac health. A few exercise sessions now and then cannot increase this number, while steady daily activity has been shown to keep it at a healthy level.

Consistency matters more than intensity

The American Heart Association profiles a health study in which the fitness levels of runners and walkers were compared. People who walked at least 30 minutes each day were found to have blood pressure and cardiac health equivalent to the athletic runners. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states that the total number of minutes of physical activity in a week is more important than the intensity or duration of any one session.

Why older people benefit the most from regular exercise

The natural aging process causes older people to be more vulnerable to chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and arthritis. A regular exercise routine can delay and even reverse the progression of these chronic health issues, and the NIH states, "Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging." There are several reasons for these beneficial effects:

          Retaining muscle mass: Once people are over 30, they begin to lose muscle mass, and studies show that regular exercise is the most effective way to reduce this chronological loss.

          Hormone production: Regular exercise stimulates the body's production of hormones that aid in building new muscle cells, while improving the vitality of existing ones.

          Bone density: Osteoporosis is a common and disabling disease associated with aging. Regular exercise and strength training stimulates the production of new bone cells.

          Depression relief: Regular exercise alleviates depression, and this has important outcomes for better life and longer health. Seven million Americans over the age of 65 suffer depression, and studies show that mortality rates are higher among those people are consistently higher.

As bodies age, the positive effects of daily exercise and physical movement increases. Physical fitness is a great habit to develop when you're young, but when you're older, remaining active on a regular basis becomes an essential foundation for continuing a healthy life.