A brisk 15-minute walk daily can add years to your life, according to a new study presented at a recent European health conference.
Health experts have long recognized the fact that regular exercise can extend lifespan, but the new research indicates that even less exercise than previously believed is needed to achieve significant benefits; walking for just 15 minutes per day can reduce the risk of early death by 22 percent.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) currently recommends two and a half hours of moderately vigorous exercise per week for older people, but the 105 weekly minutes of walking time at 15 minutes per day produces similar results, according to the latest research.
Dr. David Hupin, at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, France, said:
“Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. 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.
“We wanted to find out whether lower levels of exercise could be beneficial and even reduce mortality in older adults.”
The study involved more than 123,000 people whose lifestyles and exercise habits were studied for up to 12 years.
Even a little exercise is far better than none at all
Among older people, those who exercised at a low level had a 22 percent lower death risk than inactive people. Those with medium and high levels of activity had a 28 percent and 35 percent lower death risk, respectively.
Dr. Hupin emphasized the fact that even a low level of activity produced a “jump in benefit.”
“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 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.”
Setting a reasonable goal
The findings are significant, because the minimum of 15 minutes walking per day is a more reasonable goal for many elderly people than the current NHS recommendations.
Many people may find themselves giving up because they can’t meet the recommended guidelines, but 15 minutes per day – which can also include activities such as riding a bicycle or weeding the garden – may be a more realistic and attainable goal.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is important for people of all ages, but for older people it becomes even more crucial in terms of dealing with changes in the body that occur with aging.
As reported by Livestrong:
“When you grow older, bones can become brittle and the muscles shorten. An elderly person can lose the balance and coordination that they have had their entire lives. Staying active helps keep the body flexible. Stretching routines will lengthen muscle tissue and help prevent wasting and shortening. Exercise can reduce incidents of arthritis and osteoporosis by increasing bone density and joint range of motion.”
Exercise is also essential to maintaining a healthy heart in later life:
“Regular exercise helps to keep the heart muscle in shape and can ward off common cardiac problems. Exercising at even a light intensity will raise the heart rate and improve overall fitness. Cardiovascular training for the elderly increases respiratory intake and helps fight common illnesses, such as a cold or the flu. Vascular occlusion, or the blocking of arteries, can occur when you grow older. Exercise can help reduce the risk by lowering blood cholesterol.”
Daily exercise will not only help you to live longer, but will also increase the quality of your life; you’ll feel better and be able to enjoy your retirement years to the fullest.
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