Geoffrey Chaucer, author of "The Canterbury Tales" of 1387, was the first person to pen the phrase "For bet than never is late."
But "better late than never" is a mantra we want everyone to hear loud and clear today. So listen up, middle-age slackers: No matter how overweight or inactive you are, there's new proof that if you're 40-50 years old and have never gotten much exercise or paid attention to what you eat, you can turn your life around.
Start by walking a mile in 25 minutes.
Then increase your pace to a mile in about 18 minutes. That will slash your risk of heart failure by up to 40 percent (ditto if you go from jogging a mile in 12 to 10 minutes) and your risk of dying of lung, colon or prostate (guys) cancer by more than 40 percent.
Plus, you'll build muscle mass, lose body fat and shed pounds. That matters because middle-age body fat stiffens arteries - a sure route to heart attack, dementia, sexual dysfunction and stroke.
And if you have a stressful work environment (who doesn't?), working out regularly (at least 30 minutes daily; we say, walk 10,000 steps a day) and eating healthfully (no saturated or trans fats, no added sugars or sugar syrups and only 100 percent whole grains) can triple your chance for healthy aging.
So no matter what shape you're in, look to the future with hope and enthusiasm. And check out RealAge at Sharecare.com for info on healthy eating, smart exercise, good stress reduction and feeling younger.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.