In a recent study conducted by the University of Cambridge, a connection was found between lower levels of physical activity in adults over 60 and a decreased quality of life.
Sedentary habits, such as watching TV or reading, were also associated with a less satisfying life, reinforcing the need to encourage older adults to stay active.
The Importance of Staying Active
Physical activity, particularly of moderate intensity that raises the heart rate, is known to lower the risk of several diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
Therefore, the NHS recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.
For older adults, it’s crucial to break up long periods of being sedentary with light activity or standing, which has proven health benefits for this age group.
The Cambridge researchers studied activity levels among 1,433 participants aged 60 and above using accelerometers. These participants were part of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer)-Norfolk study.
The team also examined health-related quality of life, a measure of health and well-being that includes pain, ability to care for oneself, and anxiety or mood.
Participants were followed up after an average of six years to examine changes in their behavior and quality of life.
On average, six years after their first assessment, men and women were doing about 24 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.
Simultaneously, total sedentary time increased by around 33 minutes a day for men and about 38 minutes a day for women.
Those individuals who were more physically active and spent less time being sedentary at their first assessment had a higher quality of life in the subsequent years.
For every minute a day less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured six years after the first assessment, quality of life scores dropped by 0.03. An increase in sedentary behaviors was also linked to poorer quality of life.
According to Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, “Keeping yourself active and limiting—and where you can, breaking up—the amount of time you spend sitting down is really important whatever stage of life you’re at.
This seems to be particularly important in later life, when it can lead to potentially significant improvements to your quality of life and your physical and mental well-being.”
Further, the team suggests that their findings demonstrate a causal link: improved quality of life results from remaining more physically active.
Dr. Yerrakalva added that physical activity improves muscle strength, which allows older adults to care for themselves better.
It also reduces pain in conditions like osteoarthritis and helps improve depression and anxiety, all of which are linked to quality of life.
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