- Researchers report that people over age 85 can prolong their lives by walking as little as 10 minutes per day.
- Experts say older adults can exercise safely by walking with another person or exercising in a public place such as a mall.
- They add that older adults can also get their daily exercise by parking their car far away from a store or using the stairs whenever possible.
- They also say some exercises can be done inside the home.
People in their 80s can prolong their lives by walking for as little as 10 minutes a day, according to new research released today.
“Our study indicates that walking even just one hour every week is advantageous to those aged 85 years and older compared to being completely inactive. The take-home message is to keep walking throughout life,” the researchers wrote.
The new study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual meeting this week. The findings haven’t been peer-reviewed or published yet.
In their study, the researchers examined the association between walking and the risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in adults 85 and older. They reported that walking for as little as 10 minutes a day can increase longevity.
The researchers looked at data for 7,047 adults over 85, with an average age of 87, from the Korean National Health Screening Programme from 2009 through 2014. The participants completed a questionnaire on leisure time activities, including the length of time spent each week:
- Walking at a slow pace
- Engaging in moderate-intensity activities, such as cycling or brisk walking
- Engaging in vigorous exercises, such as running
Of the participants:
- 4,051 did not spend any time walking
- 597 walked for less than one hour
- 849 walked for one to two hours
- 610 walked for two to three hours
- 940 walked more than three hours
In all, 1,037 people reported completing moderate activity throughout the week while 773 reported vigorous exercise and 538 individuals met the recommended times for moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Compared to inactive individuals, those who walked at least one hour per week had about a 40 percent lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“In general, there is a standard exercise recommendation for everyone over age 60,” Dr. Deena Goldwater, the vice president of care delivery for Los Angeles-based Welcome Health Inc., told Healthline.
These recommendations include:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (i.e., cardio), which breaks down to 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week. Moderate intensity exercise includes brisk walking, dancing, light jogging, biking about 10 miles per hour on level ground, and swimming.
- In addition, 60 minutes per week (30 minutes of exercise 2 days per week) on activities to strengthen muscles (i.e., strength training), including resistance training using light weights or bodyweight exercises such as chair squats, wall push-ups, hip bridges, and lunges.
- It is also recommended that people over age 65 do exercises to improve balance such as single limb stance, walking heel to toe, and side-leg raises.
“For people interested in either starting or increasing the amount that they exercise, it is important to remember not to try to increase the amount of exercise all at once,” said Goldwater. “It should be a slow and steady process.
Goldwater provides this training regiment as an example:
- Someone who is not exercising at all can go for a walk for 10 to 15 minutes three times per week.
- After two weeks of this level of exercise, increase either the amount of time (e.g., from 10 to 20 minutes 3 days per week) or increase the frequency (10-minute walk five days per week).
- Hold each level of exercise for one to two weeks before increasing it again.
Some older adults find it hard to get started regularly walking or exercising.
“Look for ways to find extra walking in the things you are already doing,” Dr. Eli Friedman, FACC, the medical director of sports cardiology at Baptist Health’s Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute in Florida, told Healthline.
He lists as examples:
- Park the car far away from the grocery store.
- Go to a mall where walking can be done in a safe environment.
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Schedule time to walk together with friends and family throughout the week.
- Join a gym with special classes and programming for seniors.
“No matter how you choose to do it, ensure you are in a safe environment with no obstacles on the floor that would increase the risk of falling,” Friedman said.
Even when older adults spend most of their time at home, they can exercise.
“I encourage my patients to use hallways and dining room tables,” Dr. Anthony Zizza, a geriatrician and regional medical director for Landmark Health, told Healthline. “They can start by walking around the table five times and increase this weekly. Before they know it, they could be walking miles, getting more fit, and feel comfortable venturing outside to do even more.”
“I also encourage them to use commercials,” added Zizza. “If they stand, walk, or do leg exercises during every commercial, they could quickly get stronger. Setting reminders with phone alarms can help them remember and make exercise part of their routine.”