Study: Walking Just 10 Minutes a Day May Boost Longevity
Ten minutes of walking at a moderate pace equates to roughly 1,000 steps. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
The search continues for the elusive elixir of life, but in the meantime, how about an evening stroll to extend our lifespans?
Research from South Korea appears to have confirmed as much, having reported that even just 10 minutes a day can significantly lower the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular (issues related to the heart) mortality in people over 85. Ten minutes of walking at a moderate pace equates to roughly 1,000 steps.
“Identifying the minimum amount of exercise that can benefit the oldest old is an important goal since recommended activity levels can be difficult to achieve,” said co-author Dr Moo-Nyun Jin. “Our study indicates that walking even just one hour every week is advantageous to those [ages] 85 years and older compared to being completely inactive. The take-home message is to keep walking throughout life.”
A Rundown of the Findings
As part of their research, the team examined data from the Korean National Health Screening Program on the exercise habits of some 7,047 South Korean people aged 85 or over. Using questionnaire responses, they were able to assess the amount of time spent every week engaging in slow walking as well as moderately intense (e.g., cycling or brisk walking) or vigorous physical activity (e.g., running).
They found that 42% were regular walkers, while around 1 in 4 engaged in either moderate or vigorous exercise. Around one-third of the regular walkers also performed moderate or vigorous physical activity.
The team then analyzed the associations between walking, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular mortality following adjustment for energy spent on moderate to vigorous exercise. The key finding was that those who walked for at least an hour a week had a 40% reduced risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than those who remained inactive.
“When it comes to healthy aging, exercise is about the closest thing we have to a miracle drug, and this study reinforces the idea that with even modest physical activity, older adults can reap real benefits,” commented Dr Scott Kaiser to Medical News Today.
A limitation of the study is that it’s observational, so we can’t make firm claims about causality just yet; however, the results do back up existing research on the matter. The findings were presented at an international conference in Europe but are still awaiting peer review.
The Importance of Physical Activity As You Age
It’s no secret that aging brings increased health risks, including chronic conditions and a general decline in physical and mental abilities.
Ours is an aging society just like many other nations across the world. Globally, there are well over 1 billion people over the age of 65, and this number is set to at least double by 2050. While longer lifespans are certainly an achievement worth celebrating, they bring their own challenges along for the ride.
Exercise is a core element of healthy aging because it dampens our risk of developing notorious chronic illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular issues, and it also helps to keep our physical and mental faculties intact for longer. Balance and flexibility are other benefits of the exercised body, something that can do wonders for maintaining functional independence and a greater quality of life.
Previous studies have hammered home the same message for older people as the current study. An observational study published earlier this year also showed that exercise is negatively correlated with all-cause mortality risks.
The same paper reported that reaching the 150 minutes a week guideline maxes out the survival advantage the elderly can gain through regular exercise, so there are increasing benefits to be gained all the way up to that point of commitment.
Benefits of Exercise Source: TheVisualMD
Not Everyone Can Move Like They Used To
A caveat here is that not every senior is capable of exercising for that long or even at a moderate level of intensity. For situations like this, the guidelines recommend that you do what you can according to your abilities — just make sure to consult your healthcare professional first.
A common technique is to expand the exercise in activities you’re already doing; more specifically, fitting in some extra steps where you can.
Do you drive your car store to buy groceries? Park it further away than you normally would. If it’s within your abilities to opt for the stairs rather than an escalator/elevator, use that instead.
You can also tie in social time with friends and family into an exercise-oriented activity. Simply going for a regularly scheduled walk with loved ones is a great way to take care of two needs at once.
Finally, for those who prefer something more structured and led by instruction, there are classes designed specifically for seniors. Trained professionals can assess your abilities and comfort while keeping in mind the potential for injuries. The group environment also makes for an excellent place to meet new people and socialize.
“We know that regular physical activity is good for us at any age as it helps to maintain a healthy weight and reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said Chloe McArthur from the British Heart Foundation to Yahoo.
“These are vital to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and improve your quality of life. It’s never too late to get active. Start small and try to incorporate more movement in your day-to-day life, whether that is doing the housework, gardening, or popping out for a quick stroll.”
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