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HEALTH

German study shows those who exercise regularly remain ‘younger’ longer

Recent analysis of data from a long-term study into the effects of an active lifestyle show those who led active lifestyles were around 10 years younger in terms of motor skills.

German study shows those who exercise regularly remain 'younger' longer
Photo: DPA

The 25-year study, run by the Sports Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is called 'Gesundheit zum Mitmachen', which translates roughly to 'health through participating'.

It was initiated by sports scientists Klaus Bös und Alexander Woll and involved almost 500 volunteers from the Bad Schönborn in the state of Karlsruhe, the Stuttgarter Zeitung reports.

Since 1992 the participating men and women, aged between 35 and 80, were tested regularly on strength, flexibility, stamina and fine motor skills.

The unique long-term project has both scientific and practical purposes: the initiation and implementation of measures which promote health as well as the planning and conception of a long-term scientific study into the correlation between activity, fitness and health.

According to Klaus Bös, former head of the KIT Sports Institute, the question of nutrition was deliberately left out of the study as, “it would have gone beyond the scope of the framework and we simply lacked the sufficient expertise in that wide field.”

When the KIT study first began in 1992, 500 people aged 35 to 55 were chosen at random to be tested and were invited back for further testing every five years, alongside a new 'class' of 35-year-olds.

A little over 120 people took part in all the tests over the 25 year period, with a proportion of volunteers dropping out at various points along the way.

During each phase, subjects filled out questionnaires on their health and sporting habits. Their fitness was then assessed with physical tests observed by a doctor, a medical technical assistant and a sports scientist.

Blood samples, body fat measurements and psychological health of the volunteers were also studied.

Health problems inevitably increase with age but results from the KIT study confirm that people who regularly take part in active hobbies have far fewer complaints than those who are inactive.

Those who do not achieve 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, as recommended by the World Health Organisation, are three times more likely to develop circulatory, cardiovascular, orthopaedic and neurological problems, as well as being four times more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, than those who are active. 

The KIT study also reports a significant increase in physical and sporting activities in the Bad Schönborn population.

The largest increase was visible for the age range of 51- to 60-year-olds as, while this age group took part in on average only 45 minutes of exercise per week in 1992, this had increased to 120 minutes by 2015.

According to Klaus Bös, it doesn't really matter what kind of sport you're doing.

“Sport has to fit with people, not vice versa,” which means it could be walking, jogging, bike riding, swimming or anything else that gets your heart-rate up.

COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to Italy's vaccine mandate as "inadmissible” and “unfounded”, as 1.9 million people face fines for refusing the jab.

Italy's constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges were asked this week to determine whether or not vaccine mandates introduced by the previous government during the pandemic – which applied to healthcare and school staff as well as over-50s – breached the fundamental rights set out by Italy’s constitution.

Italy became the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

The Constitutional Court upheld the law in a ruling published on Thursday, saying it considered the government’s requirement for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated during the pandemic period neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.

Judges ruled other questions around the issue as inadmissible “for procedural reasons”, according to a court statement published on Thursday.

This was the first time the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on the issue, after several regional courts previously dismissed challenges to the vaccine obligation on constitutional grounds.

A patient being administered a Covid jab.

Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

One Lazio regional administrative court ruled in March 2022 that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”.

Such appeals usually centre on the question of whether the vaccine requirement can be justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

READ ALSO: Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Meanwhile, fines kicked in from Thursday, December 1st, for almost two million people in Italy who were required to get vaccinated under the mandate but refused.

This includes teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers, and the over 50s, who face fines of 100 euros each under rules introduced in 2021.

Thursday was the deadline to justify non-compliance with the vaccination mandate due to health reasons, such as having contracted Covid during that period.

Italy’s health minister on Friday however appeared to suggest that the new government may choose not to enforce the fines.

“It could cost more for the state to collect the fines” than the resulting income, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci told Radio Rai 1.

He went on to say that it was a matter for the Economy and Finance Ministry, but suggested that the government was drawing up an amendment to the existing law.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

The League, one of the parties which comprises the new hard-right government, is pushing for fines for over-50s to be postponed until June 30th 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised a clear break with her predecessor’s health policies, after her Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic in 2021 when it was in opposition.

At the end of October, shortly after taking office, the new government allowed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work earlier than planned after being suspended for refusing the Covid vaccine.

There has been uncertainty about the new government’s stance after the deputy health minister in November cast doubt on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, saying he was “not for or against” vaccination.

Italy’s health ministry continues to advise people in at-risk groups to get a booster jab this winter, and this week stressed in social media posts that vaccination against Covid-19 and seasonal flu remained “the most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially the elderly and frail”.

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