Study Says Even Limited Activity Helps the Heart


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Many aging parents and other seniors with limited mobility know that they need to stay active; however, they often feel they are simply able to maintain the level of activity that is traditionally recommended. Luckily, a new study suggests that even low-intensity activity can benefit such individuals.

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According to the study, what's important is not so much the difficulty and exertion involved in an activity as it is the time aging parents with limited mobility spend engaging in the activity. Yes, it's absolutely wonderful if a person can jog for two or three miles, but even simply getting up out of the chair and walking around the room a few times can be beneficial.

The study​


Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study is entitled "Association of Objectively Measured Physical Activity With Cardiovascular Risk in Mobility‐limited Older Adults." It's called the LIFE (Lifestyles Interventions and Independence for Elders) Study for short.

In a press release, Thomas W. Buford, PhD, senior author of the study, stated that "reducing time spent being sedentary even by engaging in low-intensity activities could have important cardiovascular benefits for older adults with mobility limitations."

The study looked at 1,170 people aged 74-84 who had limited mobility but could walk about 400 meters. The scientists looked at data associated with these participants and then used a special process for calculating the 10-year risk of heart attack or coronary death. When they did this, they found that the predicted risk of heart attack or cardiac death increased by 1% for every 25-30 minutes that a person was sedentary. In addition, low-level activity such as slow walking was linked to higher levels of the good form of cholesterol in those participants who did not have a history of cardiac issues.

Dr. Buford states that general recommendations have previously emphasized engaging in structured physical exercise in order to achieve health gains for this population; however, he says that it is becoming "increasingly evident that encouraging individuals to just reduce the amount of time being sedentary" may have significant benefits in terms of heart health.

While there is still a great deal to be learned, it does seem clear that aging parents can benefit from simply staying a bit more active. It's wonderful when someone is able to engage in structured exercises of significant duration, but those who cannot should still make efforts to reduce the time they spend simply sitting.​​​​​​

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