Elderly Who Exercise Some Live Longer

Benefits of Sporadic Physical Activity Almost as Good as Weightier Workouts in Elderly

From the WebMD Archives

July 16, 2004 -- Longer life for elderly people is just one weekly walk away.

It doesn't matter whether you walk fast, ski, swim, cycle, or jog. It doesn't even seem to matter if you do it only once a week. Researchers find that men and women aged 65 and older live 40% longer if they exercise just once a week compared with elderly people who were physically inactive.

That's about the same benefit seen in those who exercise harder and more often, note Kristina Sundquist, MD, PhD, and colleagues at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. The findings appear in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Leisuretime physical activity decreases all-cause mortality among men and women aged 65 and older," Sundquist and colleagues write. "For those who were physically active about twice a week or vigorously active at least twice a week the reduction in all-cause mortality was about the same as for those who were physically active once a week."

Even occasional physical activity (in the Swedish study, examples include one-hour walks, skiing a couple of times every year, swimming, or mushroom picking) cut the death rate by 28%.

Sundquist's team interviewed more than 3,200 men and women who were 65 or older in 1988 or 1989. They followed up with them at the end of December 2000.

In addition to getting no exercise at all, things that upped an elderly person's risk of death were diabetes, current smoking, and high blood pressure.

The researchers recommend that senior centers and doctors advise elderly people to get active -- even if they can do it only once in awhile.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 16, 2004

Sources

SOURCE: Sundquist, K. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, July 2004; vol 27: pp 22-27.

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