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Bulletin Poll: Exercise a Way of Life for Older Adults

Majority say they’re active on a regular basis with walking as the favorite way to keep moving

A majority of older adults are exercising regularly, but they’re devoting less time to staying in shape than they did five years ago, according to a new AARP Bulletin poll.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of 510 people polled say they’ve been physically active on a regular basis for at least a year. But a hefty 25 percent say they don’t exercise consistently.

Most people seem to believe that carving out time to exercise is important. About six in 10 adults say they’re physically active for four hours or more per week, the poll found, while about 25 percent say they’re exercising between two and four hours.

Still, most people admitted they’ve slacked off over time. Compared with their activity level five years ago, 55 percent of people ages 45 to 54 say they’re exercising less, as are 61 percent of those ages 55 to 64 and 73 percent of those 65-plus.

Among those who are active on a regular basis, walking was overwhelmingly cited as their favorite exercise, particularly among those 55 and older.

It’s the exercise of choice for John Denmark, 54, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., just outside Orlando. The real estate agent and appraiser began his walking routine several months ago after his doctor told him it was a great way to manage diabetes and potentially lose weight.

“When I do exercise, I feel better afterward mentally,” Denmark says. “I’m more alert.”

The poll also found a direct correlation between exercise and earning power: the higher the income level, the more likely the respondents were to be active. More than two-thirds of adults who earned at least $50,000 annually say that they are physically active. Nearly 43 percent of those whose income levels were less than $25,000 say they don’t exercise regularly.

When it comes to spectator sports, the Super Bowl ranked as the favorite sporting event by more than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents, followed by the Summer or Winter Olympics (17 percent) and baseball’s World Series (10 percent).

Similarly, football was considered the favorite spectator sport among 27 percent of those polled; baseball came in second among respondents (17 percent), followed by NASCAR auto racing (10 percent).

Asked about their favorite living professional athlete, 10 percent cited golfer Tiger Woods. The majority had no clear favorite.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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