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Exercise with friends curbs future health risks for middle-aged: study

Exercising with friends is an effective way for people in their 50s to lower their risk of being unable to perform everyday activities such as climbing stairs in the future, a research team has found.

    The team from the University of Tsukuba and other institutions found that exercising alone did not significantly reduce the risk of being unable to perform such activities.

    The study analyzed data from a survey on middle-aged people conducted every year by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The researchers looked at 22,770 men and women aged between 50 and 59 in 2005 who answered then that they were able to perform 10 everyday actions, such as sitting and standing or using the bathroom. They examined the way these people used their free time -- including their hobbies, exercise or sports, and community activities -- and their health five years on. The effects of smoking or illnesses were excluded and the results analyzed.

    Researchers assigned the risk of a person who did not exercise being unable to perform at least one of the 10 daily activities five years later a numerical value of 1. They found that the risk for people who exercised with someone else on a regular basis fell to 0.68 for men and 0.74 for women.

    No significant drop in risk was seen, however, if the person exercised alone.

    Among women, hobbies also lowered their risk level, the researchers said.

    The research team published results last year showing that exercising with others helps sustain mental health.

    University of Tsukuba professor Fumi Takeda, whose research fields include hygiene and public health, commented, "Matching one's behavior to another person and communicating with them may have physical benefits."

    The results of the study were published in the U.S. science journal PLOS ONE.

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