For Older Women, Every Movement Counts Toward Health
For women over 65, every bit of light physical activity — even as minor as making the bed or walking to the car — may carry a reduced risk of mortality, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“Every movement counts,” said Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California (UC) San Diego.
“A lot of what we do on a daily basis is improving our health, such as walking to the mailbox, strolling around the neighborhood, folding clothes, and straightening up the house. Activities like these account for more than 55 percent of how older individuals get their daily activity.”
For the study, the researchers followed 6,000 women aged 65 to 99 for up to four and a half years. The women wore a measuring device called an accelerometer on their hip around-the-clock for seven days while going about their daily activities.
The findings show that 30 minutes of light physical activity per day lowered mortality risk by 12 percent while an additional 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as bicycling at a leisurely pace or brisk walking, was tied to a 39 percent lower risk.
“Improving levels of physical activity both light and moderate could be almost as effective as rigorous regular exercise at preventing a major chronic disease,” said LaCroix, chief of the Division of Epidemiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We don’t have to be running marathons to stay healthy. The paradigm needs to shift when we think about being active.”
The researchers also found that the benefit of light physical activity extended to all subgroups examined, including different racial/ethnic backgrounds, obese and non-obese women, women with high and low functional ability, and women older and younger than age 80.
“Older people expend more energy doing the same kinds of activities they did when younger, so their daily movement has to accommodate for this,” said LaCroix. “Think of it as taking a pill (activity level) at different doses (amounts of time) depending on the age of the patient. It’s not one size fits all.”
According to current public health guidelines, adults should engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. The guidelines recommend persons 65 and older follow the adult guidelines to the degree their abilities and conditions allow.
“Our study shows, for the first time using device-measured light physical activity in older women, that there are health benefits at activity levels below the guideline recommendations,” said LaCroix.
“With the increasing baby boomer population in the United States, it is imperative that future health guidelines recommend light physical activity in addition to more strenuous activity. When we get up from the couch and chair and move around, we are making good choices and contributing to our health.”
Pedersen, T. (2018). For Older Women, Every Movement Counts Toward Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/11/19/for-older-women-every-movement-counts-toward-health/128934.html