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50-somethings who are 'fitter than in their 20s'

The average 50-something now leads a fitter and more active life than they did in their 20s, according to a survey.

Older adults are reaping the benefits of better diets, more exercise and increased free time to focus on their health, suggests the poll of 1,500 over 50s.

The survey found that they were taking more exercise and eating more healthy food than they were when they were younger.

Free of the pressures of working life and raising a family, they could also dedicate more time to exercise.

The poll, commissioned by the insurer Engage Mutual, found that seven in 10 people over 50 were doing more exercise than in their youth.

A similar number now pay more attention to their diet, eating much more fruit and vegetables and many less take-aways than they did in decades past.

While only a fifth said they would have consumed the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in their 20s, that rose almost four-fold to 75 per cent today.

A quarter said exercise formed an important part of their social lives.

By comparison, nearly a third said that working long hours or running round after children had got in the way of their health and fitness when they were young.

Louise Withy, from Engage Mutual, said the study showed many perceptions of older people were outdated.

She said: "It's great that so many people feel so fit in their fifties and above.

"It challenges many of the preconceptions around ageing and is good news when we consider that in light of increased life expectancy, many more of us will be spending a larger proportion of our life 'over 50'.

"Current predictions for life expectancy state that men age 65 could expect to live another 17 years and women at 65 could expect to live another 20 years.

"These kind of predictions make taking action on health and fitness in our later years just as important as when we are younger. "

The report found around one in five over 50s felt "more energetic" and enjoyed "more of a zest for life" than they did in their 20s. Almost seven out of ten of those who felt healthier put their new-found motivation down to a better awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Those who felt fitter than in their 20s took exercise, on average, four times a week. The most popular ways to keep fit were walking, swimming, cycling and attending fitness classes.

Weight gain prompted more than half to adopt a healthier lifestyle, while for almost a third (29 per cent) it was the desire to be able to help out with grandchildren. One in six (17 per cent) said they had experienced a health scare.

More than a half believed they looked younger than their age - a statistic that suggests a degree of wishful thinking among some.

Miss Withy added: "For some, turning 50 can be a new beginning."

"The 50s can be a time when many people reflect on their health and consider their longevity.

"Children moving away from home, and winding down at work can provide the space to address their own needs and where required, adjust lifestyles and introduce a healthier routine."

© Telegraph.co.uk