A new study has found that a brisk 15-minute walk can reduce the risk of death among the over 60s by up to 22%.
Experts say that just fifteen minutes ofexercise a day may be a reasonable target for people over 60 who do not feel able to reach the current recommended targets for the amount of time they spend doing physical activity
If older people engage in a low level of exercise their risk of death reduces 22% compared with those who are inactive, according to a study presented at the EuroPRevent 2016 conference.
But those who reach the recommended weekly target of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity have a 28% lower risk of death, said Dr David Hupin, a physician at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France.
“Age is not an excuse to do no exercise,” said Dr Hupin.
“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 adultsachieve 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.
Compared with those who were inactive, older adults with low, medium and high activity levels had a 22%, 28% and 35% lower risk of death, respectively.
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% 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 concluded: “We think 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. 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.”
Commenting on the study, Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “It’s never too late to start exercising, especially as physical activity helps prevent many chronic conditions including Type 2 diabetes and dementia, and reducing the risk of early death.
“The maximum health benefits are achieved from 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. However, every little counts and just 10 minutes of physical activity will provide health benefits.”