Older people can boost life expectancy with just a little exercise, study finds

22nd August 2019

Activity trackers were placed on those taking part, giving the study greater weight as it did not rely on self-reporting.

A Norwegian study reviewing 36,000 cases has linked an increase in overall activity, whether light or more rigorous, with increased life expectancy.

The study, published in The BMJ, found that even minor increases in non-strenuous activity, such as easy gardening, climbing stairs at home, washing dishes or hanging clothes could help reduce the chances of an early death among older people.

Remaining still for long periods of time, such as weekends on the couch without being broken up with other activities, has been linked to an increased risk of developing certain conditions such as heart disease.

This supports previous research which has come to similar conclusions, mainly that reducing time spent sedentary and replacing it with any form of movement is beneficial to human health.

“It is important for elderly people, who might not be able to do much moderate-intensity activity, that just moving around and doing light-intensity [activity] [will have] strong effects and is beneficial,” said Ulf Ekelund, a professor and first author of the study at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, as quoted in The Guardian.

The study does go on to find that the benefits are even better when older adults engage in more strenuous activity as opposed to light activity. It also found that short bursts of intense activity is as beneficial as spending longer periods of time doing less strenuous activity.

The 36,000 cases observed involved people with an average age of almost 63 years, with participants followed for roughly 6 years. In total, 2,149 deaths were recorded.

Most of the people observed reside in the US and Europe, causing critics to say that the people surveyed come from areas where particularly sedentary lifestyles have been adopted. 

Activity trackers were placed on those taking part, giving the study greater weight as it did not rely on self-reporting.


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