Need to get in shape? If you’re over the age of 65, you may be better off sticking to light exercise, according to new research from Oregon State University.
According to the study, which now appears in the American Journal of Health Promotion, people over 65 who did at least 300 minutes of light exercise per week–such as doing household chores or table tennis–still reaped major health benefits, such as a lower body mass index (BMI) and a reduced likelihood of chronic diseases.
Better yet, these are activities nearly all older adults can do–safely.
“You get a nice array of health benefits by doing five hours of light physical activity per week,” says Brad Cardinal, a professor from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University and co-author of the study. “There appears to be some real value in devoting at least three percent of the 168 hours available in a week to these light forms of physical activity. Light exercise is more appealing to people over 65, and such activities do not generally require the approval of a physician.”
Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers examined how many participants over 65 engaged in light intensity activities, such as slow dancing, household chores, and leisure walks. They also examined how long they engaged in these activities, comparing it to certain health markers, such as their weight, waist circumference, and disease history.
The good news? Those who engaged in at least 300 minutes of light activity–around 50 minutes per day–were 18 percent healthier than those who were sedentary. In fact, researchers report they often had lower BMIs, smaller waists, and better insulin levels. They were also less likely to have chronic diseases that often shorten a person’s life span, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For researchers, this highlights an important finding: To stay fit, heavy workouts aren’t necessary.
“These findings highlight that, in addition to promoting moderate-intensity physical activity to older adults, we should not neglect the importance of engaging in lower-intensity, movement-based behaviors when the opportunity arises,” says Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a University of Mississippi assistant professor of exercise science and health promotion. “For example, instead of talking on the phone in a seated position, walking while talking will help increase our overall physical activity level.”
However, Cardinal emphasizes more research is necessary to fully understand why light exercise specifically benefits older adults in this way–in contrast, younger adults who are lightly active don’t reap the same health benefits. Future research will attempt to explore the reasons why this occurs.
Still, the results clearly show older adults don’t need to do much to stay physically–or mentally–fit.
“The findings are part of a growing body of evidence that indicate light activity can lead to improved health, but more study is needed to better understand how the two are connected,” says Cardinal.
What This Means For You
Trying to get back into shape? If you’re an older adult, don’t stress out over complicated workout routines; instead, just move around more. Staying lightly active for just 50 minutes per day could improve your overall health by as much as 18 percent.
Readers: How do you stay physically active on a daily basis?
Light-intensity Exercise Could Prove Beneficial to Older Adults, New Research Shows – ScienceDaily.com