The recommended levels of exercise for older adults is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, levels which are—unsurprisingly—not achieved by most seniors. There is therefore a good deal of research interest in finding ways for seniors to get similar exercise benefits from exertion levels that are more generally achievable by the average person. Research presented at the EuroPRevent 2016 meeting offered a proposal that may do just that. The findings suggest that even 15 minutes of exercise each day could reduce the risk of death by 22%.
The study looked at 1,011 French subjects aged 65 in 2001 and tracked them for 12 years. Physical activity was measured using something called the Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes-per-week. This is a way of referring to how many calories are expended per minute of physical activity. A single MET minute per week would be the amount of energy used by simply sitting in place, for instance. And the amount of MET that builds up can change depending on how vigorous an activity is.
Subjects were compared based on categories derived from their MET minutes per week. The categories were: inactive (the reference group), low (1–499 MET), medium (500–999), and high (1,000 or more). For context, the recommended levels of exercise for older adults fall within the medium range.
Rates of death were tracked across each group during the study period. Over the 12 years, the risk of death decreased the more exercise an individual got. When compared to the inactive group, the low, medium, and high activity levels resulted in a 22%, 28%, and 35% lower risk of death, respectively.
These findings are important since the “low” level of activity is only half the recommended amount yet still produces impressive returns. In order to build up enough MET minutes per week to qualify for the low category, all someone would have to do is take a 15-minute brisk walk every day.
If corroborated and confirmed, the findings would be a huge comfort to any senior who is struggling to keep up an active exercise regimen. Starting small and aiming for a 15-minute walk or another comparable activity each day can produce the most immediate and largest single-boost to longevity. Once an older adult becomes accustomed to the exertion, they can try to advance to the medium level if they choose. Little things mean a lot, and just a few minutes of exercise per day may have huge returns for the elderly.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“15 minute daily exercise may be reasonable target in older adults,” Medical News Today web site, June 14, 2016; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/310961.php, last accessed June 30, 2016.