MEN down the decades have been teased for developing a mid-life love of golf or running.

But now, researchers have suggested that a mid-life fitness crisis could bring health benefits that last a lifetime.

A new study, published in medical journal BMJ Open, suggests that men who are physically active in their middle age are more likely to continue the habit into their retirement.

Playing sport was the hobby most likely to stand the test of time, said the scientists from University College, London, who tracked the behaviour of 3,500 men over two decades.

A Swindon sports organiser has called on more men to take up sport and other, more gentle activities, such as walking.

Emma Sperring, who currently run’s the council’s Walking for Health scheme and is a director of Swindon’s weekly Parkrun, said: “Our walks attract a lot of older men – aged 55 plus. You find that they carry that through to older age.

“It’s the social aspect of the walks that people enjoy – the cup of tea and biscuit after the walk.”

Those taking part in the walks were able to see the improvements to their health.

“We have had some people come off medication for diabetes,” Emma said.

She added: “That really drives people to continue. You find that because people can see, for example, weight loss or the health benefits, they want to carry on doing it. “

She said that running with other people was also what attracted many to Parkrun.

Many middle-aged men take part in the weekly 5km runs, which are held at Lydiard Park from 9am every Saturday.

Researchers from UCL analysed questionnaires filled in by almost 3,500 men involved in the British Regional Heart Study. The men were asked about their health and hobbies at the start of their involvement in the study, then again 20 years later.

Sport was the most stable activity – with half of men at each check-up saying they did sport.

The proportion of men reporting high-levels of walking jumped from around a quarter at the beginning of the study to almost two-thirds 20 years later.

The researchers said that men who were active in their mid-life years were three times more likely to be physically active 20 years later.

Lead researcher Daniel Aggio said: “Early engagement in sport and structured exercise may be vital for developing the necessary motor skills needed to establish a lifelong habit for physical activity.

“However, it may also be important to provide opportunities to take up other forms of activity, such as walking, during the transition to old age.”

For more details about Walking for Health, visit:

The 5km Parkrun is every Saturday, 9am, at Lydiard Park with 2km Junior Parkrun for those aged 4-14 is every Sunday, 9am, at Lydiard Park. For more, visit: