A paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that boosting physical activity levels in elderly men seems to be as good for health as giving up smoking. Researchers suggest more effort should go into promoting physical activity in this group.
The researchers based their findings on 15,000 men born between 1923 and 1932 for who took part in a health check in 1972-3 (Oslo I).
Some 6000 of the surviving men repeated the process in 2000 (Oslo II) and were monitored for almost 12 years to see if physical activity level over time was associated with a lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease, or any cause, and if its impact were equivalent to quitting smoking.
Overall, the results showed that 30 minutes of physical activity–of light or vigorous intensity–6 days a week was associated with a 40% lower risk of death from any cause.
Men who regularly engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their leisure time lived five years longer, on average, than those who were classified as sedentary.
This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, and the researchers point out that only the healthiest participants in the first wave of the study (in 1972-3) took part in the second wave (in 2000), which may have lowered overall absolute risk.
But the differences in risk of death between those who were inactive and active were striking, even at the age of 73, they suggest.
1. I. Holme, S. A. Anderssen. Increases in physical activity is as important as smoking cessation for reduction in total mortality in elderly men: 12 years of follow-up of the Oslo II study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015; 49 (11): 743 DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094522
15 July 2015
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