Many leisure time activities may help reduce death risk in older adults

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In a study from the National Cancer Institute, scientists found that older people who participate weekly in many different types of leisure time activities, such as walking for exercise, jogging, swimming laps, or playing tennis, may have a lower risk of death from any cause, as well as death from heart disease and cancer.

The findings suggest that it’s important for older adults to engage in leisure time activities that they enjoy and can sustain, because many types of these activities may lower the risk of death, the authors wrote.

In the study, the team used data from 272,550 adults between the ages of 59 and 82 who had completed questionnaires about their leisure-time activities.

The researchers looked at whether participating in equivalent amounts of seven different exercise and recreational activities—including running, cycling, swimming, other aerobic exercise, racquet sports, golf, and walking for exercise—was linked to a lowered risk of death.

They found that achieving the recommended amount of physical activity per week through any combination of these activities was associated with a 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared with no participation in these activities.

When they looked at the role of each activity individually, playing racquet sports was linked to a 16% reduction in risk and running with a 15% reduction.

However, all the activities examined were similarly linked to lower risks of death.

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults engage in 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, each week.

The levels of activity by the most active individuals (those who exceeded the recommended levels of physical activity) were associated with even greater reductions in the risk of death, but there were diminishing returns as activity levels increased.

Even people who did some recreational activity, though less than the recommended amount, had a 5% reduction in risk of death than those who did not participate in any of the activities studied.

The team says these activities were also associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.

Playing racquet sports was linked to the greatest reduction in risk of heart deaths (27% reduction), while running was linked to the greatest reduction in risk of cancer deaths (19% reduction).

If you care about longevity, please read studies about the optimal daily walking steps for longevity, and the way to increase the longevity of cancer survivors.

For more information about longevity, please see recent studies about the features of a ‘longevity diet’, and results showing healthy habits could improve longevity and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was conducted by Eleanor L. Watts et al and published in JAMA Network Open.

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