For a Healthy Heart, Every Minute of Activity Counts!
For elderly people with reduced mobility, quite literally every minute of physical activity could help to lower the risk of heart attack, according to a recent study. The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, indicates that even low-intensity activity can help keep a healthy heart, and help elderly people with limited mobility to avoid suffering a heart attack.
Building on Previous Research
Researchers, who include Thomas W. Buford, director for the Health Promotion Centre at Florida University Institute on Aging, have discovered that even gentle regular activity can help improve heart health in the over 65s, and significantly lower the chances of heart attack.
The research builds upon previous findings, such as a Medical News Today report in 2014, which revealed that physical exertion could help to lower the risk of irregular heartbeat in elderly women. Another study also indicated that an hour of exercise per day could reduce the risk of heart failure by as much as half.
Prior to Buford and his team’s research, the official recommendation in the US was that adults aged 64 and over should take part in at least 2 and a half hours of moderate exercise or 1 hour 15 minutes of strenuous exercise every week.
However, as the recent research identifies, this is challenging to those with reduced mobility, and in many cases, simply not achievable. As a result, Buford’s team aimed to identify whether less exercise could still offer tangible benefits to the elderly.
Gentle Exercise Means Higher Levels of ‘Good’ Cholesterol
Researchers tested 1,170 participants, all between the ages of 74 to 84, and all of whom were able to walk at least 400 metres. Using accelerometers, and measuring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, they were able to assess how likely the participant’s risk of heart attack was during the next 10 years of their lives.
A reading of 99 or less on the accelerometer was rated as ‘sedentary’ behaviour, a reading of 100-499 was rated as light activity, such as slow walking or gentle house cleaning, and 500 or more indicated moderate activity, such as walking. On average, the accelerometer readings of all participants only reached 500 or more for an hour or less, per day.
The studies indicated that, for every 25-30 minutes that an individual remained inactive per day, their risk of heart attack increased by 1%. Of those participants who had no history of heart disease, readings in the 100-499 range were linked to higher levels of ‘good’ cholesterol. This form of cholesterol helps to remove the ‘bad’ cholesterol from the arteries, which in turn, reduces the risk of heart failure.
The findings strongly suggest that including more activity, even gentle exercise, is a successful way of reducing the risk of heart attack. Buford states that “in the past, much of the emphasis was placed on engaging in structured physical exercise. It’s becoming increasingly evident, however, that encouraging individuals to just reduce the amount of time they spend being sedentary may have important cardiovascular benefits.”
He emphasises that, in order to minimise risks as much as possible, it’s important to introduce regular periods of gentle exercise into your day, rather than focusing on exercising in one ‘block’ and then remaining sedentary for a number of hours afterwards.