Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 185 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 3-Jul-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 4-Jul-2004
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Occasional exercise can extend life for older people

Modest physical activity — even less than once a week — can increase the longevity of people over 65, according to a Swedish study. However, leisure-time physical activity once or twice a week improves the chances of survival even more, says Kristina Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

For that reason, Sundquist says, “preventive resources among the elderly should provide more opportunities for physical activity.”

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Sundquist and colleagues interviewed 3,206 people aged 65 and older, following them for 12 years or until they died.

Those who exercised occasionally reduced their chances of death before the study’s end by 28 percent. Those who were physically active once a week reduced their early mortality risk by 40 percent, but exercising more frequently or more vigorously beyond that level did not improve their outcomes.

Physical activity probably keeps people alive longer because it reduces the likelihood of death from heart disease, Sundquist says.

Diabetes, hypertension and current smoking also increased risk of mortality. Obesity was not a risk factor in this group, she says.

To encourage moderate exercise among the elderly, Sundquist suggests that senior centers offer opportunities for walking or bicycling, and that doctors do more.

“Healthcare professionals should encourage elderly people to be physically active, even occasionally,” she says.

By Aaron Levin, Science Writer
Health Behavior News Service

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