People over the age of 60 who undertake even a very small amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, reduce their risk of death, a new study has found.
According to the findings, greater longevity is possible even if older people do not reach the recommended amount of exercise.
Adults are recommended to undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, e.g. 30 minutes, five days a week. However, some older people may struggle to achieve this.
French researchers set out to determine whether undertaking less than the recommended amount of exercise produced any benefits for older people.
They analysed nine studies on this topic, involving over 122,000 people, who were monitored for an average of 10 years. Over 18,000 of them died during this period.
The researchers found that those who undertook some moderate or vigorous activity, even if it did not reach the recommended amount, had a 22% reduced risk of death compared with those who were inactive.
Not surprisingly, the more exercise a person did, the bigger the health benefit. For those who did achieve the weekly recommended amount of exercise, their risk of death was 28% lower, while those who exceeded it had a 35% lower risk.
The researchers noted that the biggest benefits appeared to apply to those who went from doing nothing or very little exercise, to more exercise.
The reduced risk of death appeared to be largely related to less heart disease and stroke, and the benefits were greater in older women compared to older men.
The study determined that for those over the age of 60, even 75 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every week - that is just 15 minutes, five days a week - appeared to be beneficial to health. They suggested that this could be ‘a reasonable target dose'.
"Based on these results, we believe that the target for physical activity in the current recommendations might be too high for older adults and may discourage some of them. The fact that any effort will be worthwhile may help convince those 60% of participants over 60 years of age, who do not practice any regular physical activity, to become active," the researchers said.
Details of these findings are published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.