Physical activity can slow the aging process and is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality in older adults. Conversely, chronic diseases and age-related changes in exercise capacity may prevent older people from achieving recommended levels of physical activity.
A new study in people aged 85 and over shows that walking at least an hour a week may reduce the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
These results are consistent with current WHO physical activity guidelines, which recommend that older people who are unable to engage in moderate-intensity physical exercise should engage in physical activity to the extent of their ability. Physical activity can promote healthy aging, but chronic disease and age-related decline in exercise capacity often prevent older people from engaging in moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity as recommended by guidelines in matter of health.
A new study shows that people aged 85 and over who walked at least an hour a week had a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease than their peers who did not engage in physical activity.
Study co-author Dr. Moo-Nyun Jin of Inje University, South Korea, said in a press release:
“Identifying the minimum amount of exercise that can benefit older people is an important goal because recommended activity levels can be difficult to achieve. Our study indicates that walking for even an hour a week has benefits for people aged 85 and over compared to being completely inactive. The message to take away is that you have to keep walking throughout your life”. The research will be presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022 in late August.
Aging and physical activity
Aging is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases and a decline in physical and cognitive abilities. The number of individuals aged 65 and over worldwide was around 1 billion in 2019, which is expected to more than double by 2050. This increase in the aging population reflects an increase in life expectancy but raises concerns about healthy aging. Physical activity can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and slow the impact of aging on physical and cognitive decline. In addition, physical activity can help maintain flexibility and balance in older people and enable them to function independently.
Consistent with these effects, a recent observational study including older adults shows that physical activity levels are negatively correlated with the risk of all-cause mortality. However, chronic disease and age-related decline in muscle strength can, in turn, limit older people’s ability to engage in physical activity. Furthermore, sedentary behavior also increases with aging.
Current recommendations for physical activity
Research from 2016 suggests that a majority of people over the age of 65 do not meet physical activity recommendations. Current physical activity guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as running, per week. The guidelines also recommend two days of muscle-strengthening exercises, such as weight lifting or resistance training. Recommendations for older adults emphasize incorporating a mixed diet including aerobic, resistance, and balance exercises to prevent falls. Physical activity guidelines also recommend older adults who are unable to engage in moderate-intensity physical exercise to engage in physical activity according to their ability, after consulting a healthcare professional.
The health and longevity benefits of walking
The authors of the current study investigated whether walking could reduce the risk of all-cause mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease in people aged 85 and older. The study looked at data from 7,047 people aged 85 or older residing in South Korea. The researchers used a questionnaire to assess the time spent per week by participants in slow walking, moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity physical activity. They found that around 42% of people aged 85 and over walked regularly, while around 26% engaged in moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity.
In addition, about one-third of people who walked regularly also engaged in moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity. Notably, less than 8% of older adults achieved recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. The study results show that people who walked at least an hour a week had a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than people who were inactive. The lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality was observed in older adults who walked for at least an hour, whether or not they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity in addition to walking.
When it comes to healthy aging, exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug. This study reinforces the idea that with even modest physical activity, the elderly can derive real benefits.
This study demonstrates that the current threshold values given to define moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity in adults are not adapted to real life (threshold values have been established mainly for people aged 40). In my experience, the majority of adults over the age of 85 who walk frequently often achieve a relative intensity above 85% of their maximal oxygen consumption. This is high intensity, but relative to the cardiorespiratory fitness level of the person, which is key to prescribing the correct exercise intensity to improve fitness. The study adds to the evidence that the use of absolute thresholds for physical activity advice is less than optimal and that physical activity recommendations should focus much more on the relative intensity of physical activity. activity practiced.
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