When you get older, every physical activity counts

In a recent study, researchers found that people who are active at levels only slightly higher than sedentary have much lower death risk.

The study included more than 6,000 white, African-American and Hispanic women ages 63 to 99. It was led by the University at Buffalo.

For the age group in this study, light physical activities include regular chores such as folding clothes, sweeping the floor or washing the windows.

The majority of previous studies on this issue measured physical activity using questionnaires.

But the researchers in the current study measured physical activity using accelerometers.

These motion-sensing devices electronically document and store daily movement patterns and intensity on a 24-hour clock for as many days as the device is worn.

Women in this study wore the devices for between four and seven days. The researchers then downloaded the information and analyzed it.

They found that housework activities account for more than 55% of how older people spend their daily activity.

Moderate to vigorous activities would be brisk walking or bicycling at a leisurely pace.

The team also found that women who engaged in 30 minutes per day of light physical activity — as measured by an accelerometer instead of a questionnaire — had a 12% lower risk of death.

Women who were able to do a half-hour each day of moderate to vigorous activity had a 39% lower mortality risk.

Even when the researchers simultaneously accounted for the amount of each type of activity (light and moderate-to-vigorous) a woman did, they still observed significantly lower mortality associated with each time, independently of the other.

Moreover, the mortality benefit was similar for women younger than 80 compared to women over the age of 80.

It was similar across racial/ethnic backgrounds, and among obese and non-obese women.

The team suggests that doing something is better than nothing, even when at lower-than-guideline recommended levels of physical activity.

While the study focused on older women, researchers say their findings send a powerful message to younger women and men.

It’s important to develop healthy habits around physical activity while you are young so that you are more likely to maintain them when you get older.

Michael LaMonte is the study’s lead author.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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Source: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.