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Studies show light exercise can cut older adults’ risk of early and heart disease-related death

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Phoenix — Older adults can lower their risk of dying of heart disease and other conditions by increasing their physical activity – and it doesn’t have to be strenuous, a pair of studies presented by the American Heart Association indicate.

During one of the studies, researchers evaluated nearly 1,300 participants in the Framingham Offspring Study. The average age of the participants was 69. They found that light-intensity physical activity, such as casual walking or doing household chores, was linked to a 20% lower risk of dying from all causes. In contrast, every 30 minutes of sedentary time was associated with a 32% higher risk of dying from any cause.

“Promoting light-intensity physical activity and reducing sedentary time may be a more practical alternative among older adults,” Joowon Lee, study author and postdoctoral research fellow at Boston University, said in a March 5 press release from AHA.

Walk on

For the other study, researchers looked at more than 6,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative. The women, who averaged 79 years old, wore an accelerometer around their waists for seven consecutive days to measure their physical activity. The researchers tracked heart disease deaths among the group for up to seven years.

The women who walked 2,100 to 4,500 steps a day lessened their risks of dying from heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular diseases by up to 38%. Those who crossed the 4,500-step threshold cut their risks nearly in half (48%).

These results were present even after adjusting for heart disease risk factors such as obesity, blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.

“Our research shows that older women reduce their risk of heart disease by moving more in their daily life, including light activity and taking more steps. Being up and about, instead of sitting, is good for your heart,” lead study author Andrea Z. LaCroix, professor and chief of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego, said in the release.

The studies were presented March 3-6 during AHA’s Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020 conference in Phoenix.

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