Light physical activity may lower risk of death for older men

By Allen Cone  |  Feb. 20, 2018 at 10:53 AM
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Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Older men who participate in moderate physical exercise have a lower risk of death, according to researchers in Britain.

Just 150 minutes of activity weekly makes a difference for men between age 40 and 59, researchers at four hospitals and universities concluded in a paper published Monday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"The results suggest that all activities, however modest, are beneficial," the researchers wrote. "The finding that [low intensity physical activity] is associated with lower risk of mortality is especially important among older men, as most of their daily physical activity is of light intensity.

"Furthermore, the pattern of accumulation of physical activity did not appear to alter the associations with mortality, suggesting that it would be beneficial to encourage older men to be active irrespective of bouts."

Current exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity in bouts that last 10 or more minutes. Researchers determined that the time duration is not necessary.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 7,735 participants from 24 British towns originally recruited from 1978-80 who were between 40 and 59. From 2010-12, 3,137 survivors underwent a physical examination and were asked about their lifestyle, sleeping patterns and heart disease diagnosis.

Of the initial participants, 1,655 wore an accelerometer during waking hours for seven days, and researchers then monitored their health until June 2016 or death, whichever came first. Light activity included gentle gardening or taking the dog for a walk.

The final analysis was based on 1,181 men, with an average age of 78, who wore the device the entire time and didn't have pre-existing heart disease.

Over five years, 194 of the men died.

In the data, each additional 30 minutes of light intensity exercise led to a 17 percent reduction in the risk of death. On average, the reduction in the risk of death was around 33 percent.

With sporadic bouts of moderate to vigorous activity, there was a 41 percent lower risk of death. And sessions lasting 10 or more minutes had a 42 percent lower risk.

"Given the rapid decline in physical activity with age among the oldest old populations, encouraging even light activity may provide benefits for longevity," the researchers wrote.

The researchers suggested using a larger samples and including women. The researchers also say the current study's findings could be used to reevaluate physical activity guidelines, making them more achievable for older adults, and doing more to encourage older adults to engage in activity.

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