FRIDAY, Nov. 12, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- People in their 50s and 60s who get regular exercise are about 35 percent less likely to die within eight years than inactive people in the same age group, says a University of Michigan Health System study.
The benefit was even greater among active people with high heart risk. They were 45 percent less likely to die within eight years than sedentary people with high heart risk.
The reduction in death risk wasn't limited to those who did vigorous exercise. The reduction was also found among people who did moderate activities such as walking, gardening, or dancing a few times a week.
The researchers studied data from 9,611 older adults. The findings appear in the November issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
"Other studies in smaller or less representative groups have shown the long-term benefits of exercise, even light exercise, but this study allowed us to look across different population groups, and different levels of cardiovascular risk, and see who got the most 'punch' out of exercise," study author Dr. Caroline Richardson, an assistant professor of family medicine, said in a prepared statement.
"We found that across all types ranges of cardiovascular risk, everybody got a benefit from regular activity, but the biggest absolute benefit, the biggest reduction in deaths, was among high-risk people," she said.
The study results suggest that efforts to encourage middle-aged people to be active should pay special attention to people who have a history of heart attack or stroke or have risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about exercise for older adults.