Elderly must keep moving to live longer

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)


Light physical activity of any kind can significantly reduce an older person’s risk of death, according to new research.

Current advice recommends accumulating at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity in bouts lasing 10 or more minutes.

For many older adults this can be unachievable, say researchers.

New research has shown that for those aged 70 and over, any movement increases their life span.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, an observational study of more than 1,000 men aged 71 to 92 found there was a 15 per cent reduction in all-cause mortality risk for every thousand steps a day, no matter the intensity, .

Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health, Charles Perkins Centre, the University of Sydney, says for this particular demographic the study refutes the idea that activity must be done it at least 10 minute bouts.

“Importantly this showed that it did not matter how participants accumulated their physical activity,” Professor Stamatakis said.

“The key public health message from this study is that any movement in this age group matters,” he told AAP.

Researchers at University College London tracked the activity levels of more than 1,181 men from the British Regional Heart Study through the use of wearable monitors for five years.

The average age of the men was 78 and all were without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

The researchers concluded “all activities” of light intensity and upwards was associated with a reduction in overall mortality risk.

Each 30 minute increase in light physical activity per day was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in mortality, the study found.

The more vigorous the exercise the more substantial the reduction in mortality risk.

While high intensity exercise is not realistic for many older people, one thousand steps per day should is achievable for pretty much everyone with the exception of those with serious functional limitations, says Prof Stamatakis.

“It doesn’t have to be in long bouts of 10 minutes or more, any movement seems to matter, any steps we are making seem to make a difference, including light intensity,” he said.

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