In a new study, researchers found people over the age of 60 should do more exercise not less in order to prevent heart disease and stroke.
They found that people who did less moderate or vigorous physical activity as they got older had as much as a 27% increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems.
Those who increased their levels of activity had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease of up to 11%.
The link between levels of physical activity and risk of heart disease in older people held true even for those with disabilities and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes.
The research was conducted by a team in South Korea.
The team carried out the study in 1,119,925 men and women aged 60 years or older.
The participants answered questions about their physical activity and lifestyle.
The researchers calculated the amount of moderate exercise (e.g. 30 minutes or more a day of brisk walking, dancing, gardening) and vigorous exercise (e.g. 20 minutes or more a day of running, fast cycling, aerobic exercise) per week, and how it had changed during the two years between the screenings.
They found that people who moved from being continuously inactive to being moderately or vigorously active three to four times a week had an 11% reduced risk of heart problems.
Those who were moderately or vigorously active one or two times a week had a 10% reduced risk if they increased their activity to five or more times a week.
In contrast, those who were moderately or vigorously active more than five times a week and then became continuously inactive had a 27% increased risk of heart problems.
When the researchers looked specifically at people with disabilities and chronic conditions, they found that those who changed from being inactive to being moderately or vigorously active three to four times a week also reduced their risk of heart problems.
People with a disability had a reduced risk of 16%, and those with diabetes, raised blood pressure or cholesterol levels had a reduced risk of between 4-7%.
The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent heart disease.
Globally, this finding is of public health importance because the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total two billion by 2050, which is an increase from 900 million in 2015 according to the World Health Organization.
While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, the research suggests that it is necessary to be more physically active for heart health, and this is also true for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions.
The lead author of the study is Mr Kyuwoong Kim, a Ph.D. student at Seoul National University.
The study is published in the European Heart Journal.
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