Half an hour of physical activity six days a week is linked to a 40% lower risk of death in elderly men, according to Norwegian researchers.
Just 30 minutes of regular physical activity – irrespective of intensity – lowers mortality risk from any cause among elderly men, suggests research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Boosting physical activity levels in this age group seemed to be as good for health as giving up smoking, claimed the authors of the study from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo.
The researchers based their findings on 15,000 men born between 1923 and 1932 who had a health check in 1972-3.
Their height, weight, cholesterol and blood pressure were all assessed, and they were asked whether they smoked. They were also asked about their weekly leisure time physical activity levels.
These were categorised as:
- sedentary (watching TV/reading)
- light (walking or cycling, including to and from work for at least four hours a week)
- moderate (formal exercise, sporting activities, heavy gardening for at least four hours a week)
- vigorous (hard training or competitive sports several times a week).
Around 6,000 of the men repeated the check and survey in 2000, and were then monitored for almost 12 years.
Analysis indicated that less than an hour a week of light physical activity was not associated with any meaningful reduction in risk of death from any cause. But more than an hour was linked to a 32-56% lower risk.
Less than an hour of vigorous physical activity, on the other hand, was linked to a 23-37% reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. The more time spent doing vigorous exercise, the lower the risk seemed to be.
Men who regularly engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their leisure time lived five years longer, on average, than those who were classified as sedentary, said the authors.
They suggested more effort should go into encouraging elderly men to become more physically active, with clinicians emphasising the wide range of ill health that could be warded off as a result.