Even modest exercise helps the elderly

Even short periods of low intensity exercise can benefit life expectancy for elderly people.

For the average person an exercise program of 30 minutes for five days a week (or 150 minutes per week) has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 30%. However, the ‘pros and cons’ of exercise for elderly people has not been so clearly determined.

Now, a French study has shown that in the elderly the risk of death also decreases with greater and more regular exercise. Over 1,000 people were enrolled in the study at age 65 in 2001 and followed-up for 13 years. Although 10% died during this period, the risk of death was calculated to be 57% lower in those whose activity level was equal to or higher than 150 minutes a week.

There were other significant findings too – notably that starting or restarting physical activity during retirement reduced the risk of death by two-thirds.

As a simple rule at least 15 minutes of physical activity for five days a week would be a suitable first target for the elderly. This could include brisk walking, cycling or swimming. Ask your pharmacist if you need advice.