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Study examines the impact of exercise
Exercise and physical activity are known to be healthy for the human body. Researchers have now found that just a few hours of light physical exercise a week, such as walking the dog or gardening, can reduce the risk of premature death in older men. This is also the case if the activity carried out is short-lived.
The University College London scientists found that regular, short, light training greatly reduced the risk of premature death in older men. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "British Journal of Sports Medicine".
Does sport have to be long and exhausting?
To improve health and reduce the risk of death, training sessions, according to many national health authorities, have to be strenuous and long. However, the results of the study show that this is not the truth. British and US physical activity guidelines also do not mention the benefits of light activity. When these guidelines were written, there was insufficient evidence to make such a recommendation, study author Dr. Barbara Jefferis from University College London. These guidelines should be revised. The results of the current study indicate that all activities - no matter how short or how intensive - are beneficial for health, adds Dr. Jefferis added.
Data collection started in 1978
Research is based on data from the British Regional Heart Study, which started in 1978 with nearly 8,000 participants aged 40 to 59 from a few dozen cities across the UK. In 2012, the 3,137 men who were still alive underwent a physical examination and answered questions about their lifestyle and sleeping habits.
Study focused on 1,181 subjects
The current study focused on 1,181 participants who wore an accelerometer for seven days, a device to track the length and intensity of physical activity. The availability of the activity monitors worn on the body has enabled us to investigate whether light activity is linked to longevity, said Dr. Jefferis.
How did light activity affect life expectancy?
The men, who were on average 78 years old, were monitored for five years. During this time, a total of 194 died. The results of the study showed that an additional 30 minutes of daytime outdoor activity was associated with a 17 percent reduction in risk of death. As expected, half an hour of moderate to heavy activity reduced the risk even more (33 percent). What mattered, however, was the total time spent training, not how the time was divided, the experts explain.
Mowing the lawn can extend life
The men who performed short, sporadically moderately intensive activities (mowing the lawn, swimming, walking briskly) lived as long as men whose training time was divided into longer sessions. The mortality rate was 40 percent lower for both groups compared to inactive, sedentary people.
What were the limitations of the study?
The authors noted that the structure of the study (it was an observational study) did not allow the results to be assessed in terms of cause and effect. In comparison between older men who exercise sporadically or regularly and those who do not exercise, the volunteers who volunteered to use an accelerometer might have been in better health from the start. This could have distorted the results somewhat.
Results are likely to apply to women as well
It is also not clear whether the results also apply to older women, although Dr. Jefferis says there is little reason to believe that this is not the case. However, the doctors simply did not have the necessary data for women. (as)