Any activity better than none in older people

Even modest amount reduces heart risk
  • Deborah Condon

Even a modest amount of physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease in older people, a new study has found.

Around 10,000 people die from cardiovascular disease every year in Ireland, making it the country's most common cause of death. It is already well established that regular physical activity can reduce a person's risk of developing the disease.

Adults are recommended to undertake at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, which is equivalent to 30 minutes per day, five days a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

"These recommendations are based primarily on research in middle-aged adults and we wanted to know whether regular physical activity yields comparable cardiovascular health benefits in elderly people," the researchers from the Netherlands explained.

The study looked at over 24,500 people aged between 39 and 79 who were living in the UK. They were monitored from the 1990s until March 2015.

The participants were divided into three age groups - less than 55 years, 55-65 (middle-aged) and over 65 years (elderly).

The researchers found that those aged over 65 who were even considered ‘moderately inactive' had a 14% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those who were completely inactive. This indicates that any physical activity is better than none at all within this age group.

"This suggests that even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health. Elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening and housework.

"Given our ageing population and the impact of cardiovascular disease on society, a broader array of public health programmes are needed to help elderly people engage in any physical activity of any level and avoid being completely sedentary," commented Dr Sangeeta Lachman, a cardiologist at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

Details of these findings are published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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