For seniors, a small amount of exercise goes a long way
A limited amount of moderate to vigorous activity every week lowers the risk of death for people 60 years old and older, according to a study recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
And, the more physical activity, the greater the health benefit.
“It’s never too late to become physically active,” says Dr. Ramon Gonzalez, an Advocate Medical Group family medicine physician at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “There are benefits for everybody, but especially older adults as exercise benefits healthy aging, decreases mortality and has a considerable impact on the ability to perform daily activities.”
Exercising for 150 minutes per week with moderate and physical activity can offer numerous health benefits for older adults, but researchers have found that it’s difficult to reach that target.
The study analyzed nine previous studies that assessed the risk of death in relation to the amount of weekly physical activity for those 60 and older. Physical activity was measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes, which show the amount of energy expended per minute of physical activity, according to the study. One MET minute is equal to the energy equivalent to sitting, and the minutes increase based on the intensity of exercise.
Researchers looked at the associated risk of death for four categories of weekly physical activity – inactive, low (one to 499 MET minutes), medium (500 to 599) and high (over 1,000).
Researchers found that registering less than 500 weekly MET minutes of physical activity was still associated with a 22 percent lowered risk of death compared with those who were inactive. Those in the medium category had a 28 percent lowered risk, and those in the high category had a 35 percent lowered risk.
“There are people who like to exercise, those who don’t and others who are limited as to what they can or can’t do,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “I agree that something is better than nothing.”
Data also showed that 250 MET minutes a week, which corresponds to 75 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity – or 15 minutes a day – was associated with health benefits.
“When I tell my patients that even 15 minutes a day is associated with a lower risk of death, they are motivated and more likely to comply knowing that they still get a benefit even if they cannot exercise for longer periods of time,” says Dr. Jose L. Guevara, an Advocate Medical Group family medicine physician at Advocate Sherman Hospital. “Patients respond well to this type of data.”
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