It's simple but powerful medical advice: Exercise drastically lowers the odds of an early death for those 65 and older.
And you don't have to become a marathon runner to reap the benefits.
Just ride your bike. Swim laps in the neighborhood pool. Take your dog for a long walk.
Best of all, the effect is dose dependent: The more you do, the better the benefits.
The study: Led by Riitta Antikainen, a professor of geriatrics at the University of Oulu in Finland, the team tracked the health of almost 2,500 Finns aged 65 and older for almost 12 years in an effort to quantify the benefits of exercise on health over the long term. All were relatively healthy at the start of the study and had no chronic diseases.
The researchers assessed the amount of exercise each participant did, assigning them to one of three groups:
- Low exercisers: Spent most of their time reading, watching TV and did very little activity.
- Moderate exercisers: They walked, cycled or gardened at least four hours a week.
- High exercisers: Participated in more intense activities, including jogging, skiing, swimming, ball games and heavy gardening at least three hours a week.
The results: Even a moderate level of activity greatly boosted seniors' health. Specifically, those in the "moderate exercise" category had 31 percent lower odds for having a heart attack and 54 percent lower odds of dying during the study period, compared with the "low exercisers."
And the more the better! The "high exercisers" had a whopping 45 percent decrease in cardiovascular events and a 66 percent increase in survival over the 12-year study period, compared with the "low exercisers."
Antikainen presented the findings at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology. Research results are considered preliminary until they are published in peer-reviewed journal.
--From the Editors at Netscape