For Older Adults, a Little Exercise Might Do A Lot

Exercise in older adults may be beneficial even at low levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Have you given up on exercise? A lot of older people do, but you may want to consider this.

A new study from France found that even low and moderate levels of exercise may reduce the risk of death in adults over the age of 60.

"A dose of [moderate to vigorous physical activity] below current recommendations reduced mortality by 22 percent in older adults," wrote lead study author David Hupin, MD, of University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France, and colleagues. "Older adults should be encouraged to include even low doses of physical activity in their daily lives."

According to Dr. Hupin and team, the health benefits of the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity are well-known.

However, older adults often find it difficult to reach this target.

Because of this, Dr. Hupin and team looked at whether lower levels of physical activity were still beneficial for older adults.

These researchers looked at nine studies involving 122,417 patients age 60 or older. Patients were followed for an average of 10 years, during which 18,122 deaths were reported.

Physical activity was measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes — which describe the amount of energy used per minute of physical activity.

For instance, one MET minute equals the energy used to sit still while brisk walking usually clocks in at between three and six MET minutes.

According to Dr. Hupin and team, between 500 and 1,000 weekly MET minutes is the amount recommended for all adults.

Dr. Hupin and team divided the patients into groups — an inactive group, a low-activity group, a medium-activity group and a high-activity group — depending on weekly physical activity levels.

Even the adults who fell into the low-activity group saw a 22 percent decrease in death risk when compared to the inactive group.

As physical activity level increased, death risk decreased.

The medium-activity group (those meeting recommendations) saw a 28 percent decrease in death risk, while the high-activity group (those exceeding recommendations) saw a 35 percent decrease in death risk compared to the inactive group.

Dr. Hupin and team recommended a target of at least 15 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week for older adults.

This study was published online Aug. 3 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

No conflicts of interest or funding sources were disclosed.


Review Date: 
August 3, 2015
Last Updated:
August 13, 2015