Older people who are physically active are apt to live longer than theirsedentary peers
Older people who are physically
active are apt to live longer than their couch-potato peers, and are
more likely to maintain their independence, new research from Israel
shows. The great news is that people who had been sedentary but became
active -- even those who started when they were well into their 80s --
cut their risk of dying and lengthened the amount of time they were
able to live on their own, Dr. Jeremy M. Jacobs of Hebrew University
Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem and his colleagues found.
“The take home message is that even among the very old, it
never is too late to start exercising,” Jacobs noted in an
To investigate, the researchers
looked at 1,861 people 70 to 88 years old who had been followed for up
to 18 years. Those who got at least 4 hours of exercise each week were
classified as physically active, while those who got less were
considered sedentary. Among active 70-year-olds, 15 percent died over
the next 8 years, compared to 27 percent of sedentary 70-year-olds.
Eight-year mortality was 26 percent for active 78-year-olds, and 41
percent for their sedentary peers. Among 85-year-olds, 3-year mortality
was roughly 7 percent for active individuals and about 24 percent for
Being active also increased the
likelihood that a person would be able to continue to perform
activities like bathing, dressing and eating by themselves; people who
were active when they were 78 were nearly twice as likely to maintain
independence in their activities of daily living when they reached 85.
The message of his findings for
older people, Jacobs said, is to start being active today if you aren't
already. “The beauty of our finding is that the benefits of
activity were seen with as little as 4 hours a week of gentle activity.
That's just over 30 minutes a day.” To stay safe people
should start slowly and rest as needed, he added, and anyone with a
history of falls or who is concerned that they are unsteady on their
feet should seek medical advice before starting to exercise. It's also
important, he added, to watch out for traffic and avoid extremes of
“Walking is my first
choice,” Jacobs said. “In addition to the physical
benefits, the act of getting outside daily, meeting people, interacting
with the outside world and changing seasons are all ingredients of
successful aging.” The study is published in the September
14, 2009 issue of the journal Archives
of Internal Medicine.