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Even 'modest' levels of physical activity good for elderly hearts, finds 18-year study

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
– Dr Sangeeta Lachman, cardiologist, Academic Medical Centre

Elderly people must take part in low-intensity physical activity and avoid being sedentary to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke, findings from an 18-year study have confirmed.

Dutch researchers observed 24,502 patients from the UK and concluded that older adults who were moderately inactive had a 14 per cent reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who were completely inactive.

Guidelines suggest healthy adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

“These recommendations are based primarily on research in middle-aged adults but we wanted to know whether regular physical activity yields comparable cardiovascular health benefits in elderly people,” said Dr Sangeeta Lachman, lead author of the study and a cardiologist at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.

The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, included adults aged 39 to 79 years old, with participants recruited between 1993 and 1997 from general practices in Norfolk, UK.

Patients were followed up until March 2015, through monitoring of physical activity levels and the time to cardiovascular events. Physical activity was categorised as active, moderately active, moderately inactive and inactive.

During a follow-up of 18 years, there were 5,240 cardiovascular disease events.

Dr Lachman and her team’s analysis found any physical activity among the over 65s was better than none at all.

“Our findings suggest even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health,” she said.

Modest levels of activity could include 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,” Dr Lachman added.

In August Health Club Management reported on what gyms can do to engage with older adults. Click here for the full article.

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Elderly people must take part in low-intensity physical activity and avoid being sedentary to help reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke, findings from an 18-year study have confirmed.
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