Brisk 15-minute walk lowers risk of death in over-60s

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The more exercise over-60s perform, the greater their life chances scientists have found.

A brisk 15-minute stroll every day could lower the risk of death by more than 20 per cent, a new study has found.

NHS guidelines recommend adults over 65 do at least 150 minutes of “moderate aerobic activity” a week, such as walking or cycling – and strength exercises. However, many feel the target is impossible to maintain.

Research now shows that just 15 minutes of exercise is a much more reasonable target which can have huge health benefits.

If older people engage in a low level of exercise their risk of death reduces by 22 per cent compared with those who are inactive, according to a study presented at the EuroPRevent 2016 conference.

That figure rises to 28 per cent for those who reach the recommended weekly target, according to Dr David Hupin, a doctor at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France. Those engaging in “high” levels of physical activity lowered their risk of death by 35 per cent.

“Age is not an excuse to do no exercise,” said he said. “It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment.

“But less than half of older adults achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity exercise each week.”

The authors studied data from studies examining more than 120,000 people over the age of 60, following their progress over a 10 year period. During that time just over 18,000 subjects (15 per cent) died but the risk of death reduced the more exercise the participants engage in.

Dr Hupin said: “These studies show that the more physical activity older adults do, the greater the health benefit. The biggest jump in benefit was achieved at the low level of exercise, with the medium and high levels bringing smaller increments of benefit.

“We found that the low level of activity, which is half the recommended amount, was associated with a 22 per cent reduced risk of death in older adults compared with those who were inactive. This level of activity equates to a 15-minute brisk walk each day.”

He recommended that older adults should progressively increase physical activity in their daily lives, rather than dramatically changing their habits to meet recommendations.

“Fifteen minutes a day could be a reasonable target for older adults,” Dr Hupin said. “Small increases in physical activity may enable some older adults to incorporate more moderate activity and get closer to the recommended 150 minutes per week.”

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