Time goes faster as you get older, but you can slow the age-clock down. It's all about fitness and healthy living.  According to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, your cardio-respiratory fitness level declines more rapidly after age 45.  If you exercise, keep your weight healthy, and don't smoke however, you can delay that decline, slow down its progress and maintain a higher fitness level throughout middle age and your senior years. 

Researchers followed 3429 women and 16,889 men, aged 20 to 96 years, from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study who completed 2 to 33 health examinations from 1974 to 2006. They took into account certain lifestyle variables including body mass index (BMI), self-reported aerobic exercise, and smoking behavior.  The studies suggested that while fitness levels decline continuously, the pace picks up after age 45 and is faster for men than women. 

Participants who maintained an active lifestyle throughout their adult life, didn't smoke, and had a healthy BMI had substantially higher levels of cardio-respiratory fitness than inactive, overweight, smokers.  The authors wrote: "Being inactive and having a high BMI were associated with a lower age at which an individual could be expected to reach threshold cardio-respiratory fitness levels associated with substantially higher health risks."

What's so great about cardio-respiratory fitness?  Having healthy cardiac and respiratory systems mean less likelihood you'll develop heart disease, lung disease, stroke, heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and other potentially deadly and debilitating diseases associated with aging.  You'll be able to dance, hike, bike, play, and live longer and healthier. 

Other studies show that no matter what age you are when you start exercising or stop smoking, you're guaranteed health benefits from it.  Even seniors who had been inactive all their life but who started an exercise program, attained improved cardiovascular and respiratory fitness levels quickly.  The health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate. 

How do you stay motivated to exercise or start exercising?  If you're new to exercise, see your doctor first to help design a program that's safe for you.  Then, hit the gym, take a walk, a dance class, or any other fitness program you find fun, interesting, and easy to access. 

If you've been exercising for awhile, but need an infusion of energy to your old fitness program, start a new sport, join a running club, walking group, Zumba class, or sign up for a team.  People who exercise with a partner or in a group are more likely to stick with it.  If you choose an activity you love doing, you'll be less tempted to skip your workout.