In a new study, researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research find that older adults who exercise above current recommended levels have less risk of chronic disease compared with those who do not exercise.
Currently, the World Health Organization recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity each week. That is equivalent to 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.
In the study, the team interviewed more than 1,500 Australian adults aged over 50 and followed them over a 10-year period.
They compiled data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a benchmark population-based study that started in 1992.
They found that People who engaged in the highest levels of total physical activity were twice as lively to avoid stroke, heart disease, angina, cancer and diabetes, and be in optimal physical and mental shape 10 years later, experts found.
The data showed that adults who did more than 5000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) each week saw the greatest reduction in the risk of chronic disease.
The researchers suggest that with aging demographics in most countries, a major challenge is how to increase the quality and years of healthy life.
Older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional.
High levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability
Importantly, physical activity levels need to be several times higher than what the World Health Organization currently recommends to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.
While it is not easy to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity for older people, the team encourages older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity.
In addition, those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible.
The study is one of the world’s largest epidemiology studies, measuring diet and lifestyle factors against health outcomes and a range of chronic diseases.
Lead Researcher is Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath from the University of Sydney.
The research is published in Scientific Report.
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Journal reference: Bamini Gopinath et al, Physical Activity as a Determinant of Successful Aging over Ten Years, Scientific Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-28526-3