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Even a Little Exercise May Boost Seniors' Life Span, Study Finds

Biggest benefit was seen in lowered chances of heart disease, stroke

MONDAY, Aug. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults may benefit from even small amounts of exercise, researchers report.

The review found that just a little moderate-to-vigorous physical activity -- even less than the recommended 150 minutes a week -- reduced the risk of dying early in adults over age 60.

The investigators analyzed nine studies that included a total of more than 122,000 people aged 60 and older who were followed for an average of about 10 years.

The participants' physical activity was measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes, which represents calories burned for each minute of activity. Moderate activity ranges between 3 and 5.9 MET minutes, while vigorous activity is 6 MET minutes or more.

Current U.S. recommendations call for 500 to 1,000 MET minutes a week.

Compared to older adults who were inactive, those who achieved more than 1,000 MET minutes a week had a 35 percent lower risk of premature death. Among those with 1,000 MET minutes a week, the risk was 28 percent lower.

Even those who had fewer than 500 MET minutes a week had a 22 percent lower risk of dying early than those who were inactive.

The greatest benefit was among older adults who went from being inactive or doing only a minimal amount of physical activity to doing more. The researchers found that much of the benefit was from a reduced risk of premature death from heart disease and stroke during the study, and that the lower risk of premature death from all causes was much higher in women than in men.

The findings were published online Aug. 3 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"Based on these results, we believe that the target for physical activity in the current recommendations might be too high for older adults and may discourage some of them. ... The fact that any effort will be worthwhile may help convince those 60 percent of participants over 60 years of age, who do not practice any regular physical activity, to become active," the researchers concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about physical activity and exercise.

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, news release, Aug. 3, 2015
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