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01 Feb 2018

Light exercise linked to lower mortality in older women, study concludes
BY Deven Pamben

As part of a Women’s Health Initiative study, researchers wanted to learn more about how much exercise older adults are able to perform

As part of a Women’s Health Initiative study, researchers wanted to learn more about how much exercise older adults are able to perform
photo: Shutterstock

Even low-levels of regular physical activity can lead to lower death rates among older women, research has concluded.

As part of a Women’s Health Initiative study in the US, researchers wanted to learn more about how much exercise older adults are able to perform, and how it affects their health.

During 2012 and 2013, 6,489 women aged between 63 and 99 years old joined the study, agreeing to take in-home exams, answer health questionnaires and wear accelerometers to measure physical activity and sedentary time, as well as keeping sleep logs.

From the beginning of the research through to September 2016, the team recorded the total number of deaths as 450.

After examining the deaths of the women according to their activity levels, the researchers concluded that light-intensity and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity were both associated with lower mortality in older women.

Results showed that just 30 additional minutes of light physical activity per day lowered mortality risk by 12 per cent, while an additional 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking or cycling at a leisurely pace, reduced the risk by 39 per cent.

“The finding for lower mortality risk associated with light intensity activity truly is remarkable,” said Mike LaMonte, the lead author and research associate professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo in New York.

“We anticipated seeing mortality benefit associated with regular moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, as supported by current public health guidelines. But, observing significantly lower mortality among women who were active at levels only slightly higher than what defines being sedentary was such a novel finding, with important relevance to population health.”

Official guidelines suggest that healthy older adults spend at least two-and-a-half hours every week undertaking moderate activity, such as brisk walking, or at least one hour and twenty-five minutes of vigorous exercise, such as jogging or running.

The researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, concluded that their findings “suggest that replacing sedentary time with light-intensity physical activity is a public health strategy that could benefit an ageing society”.




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