Everyone wants the key to eternal youth. Until scientists can find that proverbial key, we do know that physical activity can improve longevity in older adults. Studies show that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in older adults may reduce risk of death from all causes. There are numerous studies to reaffirm the incredible power of regular physical activity to improve the well-being of adults as they age. The newest research coming from Finland was a 12-year study on the health benefits of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA).
The findings of the study conducted in Finland were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The reports show that for both men and women ages 65 to 74, regular Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA) is associated with decreased risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease (CVD), strokes and heart attacks.
To study the connection between LTPA and longevity, researchers in Finland looked at lifestyle data taken from 2,465 men and women aged 65 to 74 between the years of 1997 and 2007. Leisure time activities were broken down into three categories: low, moderate, and high. The research team followed all participants thought the end of 2013, and have since consulted the Finnish National Causes of Death Registry to determine how many of the participants have died, and if so, the cause of death.
The researchers conclude, “Leisure-time physical activity reduces the risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality and incident CVD events in older adults independently of the major known CVD risk factors. The protective effect of LTPA is dose dependent.” Participants in the study with higher levels of LTPA lived longer and had less disease. That said, the effect of any amount of physical activity boosted longevity.
So, what are the Health benefits of leisure-time physical activity, and why does Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA) in older adults add years onto someone’s life span? According to the Finnish experts, there are 5 different ways that physical activity improves health and increases longevity.
Benefits of Physical Activity
- Helps to maintain a healthy body weight
- Improves the ratio of unhealthy to healthy cholesterol in your body
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces your risk of blood clots
Physical inactivity and sitting for long periods of time is becoming a global epidemic. Sedentarism is referred to by public health experts as the “sitting disease.” Worldwide, it is estimated that physical inactivity causes approximately 3.2 million deaths a year.
Most people think that exercise in young adults is the most important, but what people tend to dismiss is the importance of Leisure-Time Physical Activity (LTPA) in the elderly population. According the World Health Organization, physical activity in adults 65 years and older, includes leisure time physical activity. This includes, walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling, household chores, play, or games.
In order to improve longevity and reduce the risk of cognitive decline, older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout a week. It should be performed in at least, bouts of 10 minute durations. Older adults with poor mobility should perform physical activity to enhance balance, and prevent falls on 3 or more days a week, and resistance type, or muscle-strengthening activities should be done 2 or more days a week.
It is never too late to change your lifestyle and make physical activity a part of your daily routine. No matter what age, we can all benefit from moving a little more throughout the day. Be sure to consult with your primary care professional before beginning any new exercise routine.
“Physical Activity and Older Adults, WHO web site, last accessed January 13 2017; http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_olderadults/en/
Christopher B,, “Leisure-Time Physical Activity Boosts Longevity, Study Finds,” Psychology Today web site, January 6 2017’ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201701/leisure-time-physical-activity-boosts-longevity-study-finds