Seniors Need to Work out, Too

Physical activity may help elderly men live longer

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

(RxWiki News) For some older men, living longer may be as simple as getting off the couch and moving.

A new study from Norway found that boosting physical activity may be as good for older men’s health as quitting smoking.

Although vigorous exercise may decrease the risk of death from any cause, this study found that even limited exercise may reduce the risk of death from heart disease in elderly men.

These findings shouldn’t come as a surprise, said Rusty Gregory, a personal trainer, wellness coach and co-author of "Living Wheat-Free for Dummies."

"Exercise is the healthiest of medicines," Gregory told dailyRx News. "Not only does it have healthy physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits … [exercise's] ability to manage and cope with stress eliminates [many] diseases/disorders associated with stress.”

Lead study author Ingar Holme, PhD, of the Department of Sports Medicine at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, and team used data from ongoing studies on the topic.

Around 15,000 men born between 1923 and 1932 underwent a health checkup in the early 1970s. At that time, their height, weight, cholesterol and blood pressure were checked.

These men were asked about their smoking status and answered a survey on their weekly activity levels. This process was repeated with around 6,000 of the patients in 2000. These men were then followed for 12 more years.

Dr. Holme and team looked at the men’s activity levels and the cause of death for those who died. Activity levels were grouped into the categories sedentary, light, moderate and vigorous.

Less than one hour of light physical activity a week did not appear to reduce the risk of death from any cause. More than one hour of light exercise was tied to a 32 to 56 percent drop in death risk. But the greatest benefit appeared to come from vigorous exercise — which may reduce the risk of death by as much as 49 percent, Dr. Holme and team found.

Men who engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise lived an average of five years longer than those who were sedentary — making exercise potentially as beneficial as quitting smoking in terms of the risk of death from any cause.

Gregory said exercise may lead to other healthy lifestyle choices, and it isn't just for older men.

"The most profound effect that exercise has on our health may be its influence on our other lifestyle behaviors," Gregory said. "For example, if you're sweatin' it out for 30 minutes every day, you're more inclined to eat healthier, sleep better and quit smoking. How's that for a greater sense of well-being? And yes, ladies, you will enjoy the same benefits of a regular exercise program as men."

This study was published May 14 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The authors disclosed no study funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 12, 2015
Last Updated:
May 19, 2015