Senior citizens with limited
mobility reduce heart risks with just a little activity
Every minute of physical activity
may lower risk of heart attack for seniors even in their 80s and with
limited mobility; amount of activity more important than the intensity
18, 2015 – This is great news and it leaves senior citizens, even those
in their 80s, and those with already limited mobility, no excuse not to
try a little physical activity. A new study finds they can lower their
risk of a heart attack – and coronary death – for every minute they
spend in a just light physical activity.
“Reducing time spent being
sedentary even by engaging in low-intensity activities could have
important cardiovascular benefits for older adults with mobility
limitations,” said Thomas W. Buford, Ph.D., senior author of the study
and director of the Health Promotion Center of the University of Florida
Institute on Aging in Gainesville, Florida.
The research report appears in the
Journal of the American Heart Association.
In the Lifestyles Interventions and
Independence for Elders Study (LIFE), researchers measured movement with
accelerometers in 1,170 people ages 74-84 at eight centers across the
United States who had physical limitations but could walk 400 meters
(about 1,312 feet).
device to measure acceleration forces - static, like the constant force
of gravity pulling at your feet, or dynamic - caused by moving or
vibrating the accelerometer) readings of fewer than 100
counts a minute were considered sedentary periods.
Anything more was deemed physical activity:
● readings of 100-499 suggested exercise like
walking or light
● 500 indicated moderate walking or similarly
Using factors such as age, cholesterol levels and
blood pressure, the researchers calculated participants’ predicted
10-year risk of heart attack or coronary death and found:
● For every 25-30 minutes a participant was
sedentary per day, his/her predicted risk was 1 percent higher.
● Physical activity in the 100-499 counts/minute
range was linked to higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels in people
with no history of heart disease.
● Participants on average spent only an hour or
less with physical activity readings at or above 500.
Generally, most physical activity recommendations
suggest that adults should engage in higher intensity activities -
readings around 2,000 counts a minute - to improve or maintain health.
But that level might not be realistic for sedentary older adults with
limited mobility, researchers said.
“In the past, much of the emphasis was placed on
engaging in structured physical exercise,” Buford said. “It is becoming
increasingly evident, however, that encouraging individuals to just
reduce the amount of time they spend being sedentary may have important
Because study participants were active in a narrow
range of intensity, researchers aren’t sure if intensity doesn’t matter.
“The idea is that, even if you exercise for an hour
in the morning, if you go and sit for eight hours the rest of the day
you may have health risks that are independent of the fact you
exercised,” Buford said. “This stresses the need for regular intervals
of low-level movement and to avoid sitting for excessive stretches of
The American College of Sports Medicine and
American Heart Association’s 2007
physical activity in older adults includes adjusting intensity for
individual fitness levels and incorporating exercises for flexibility,
balance and strength.
Co-authors are Jodi D. Fitzgerald; Lindsey Johnson;
Don G. Hire, B.S.; Walter T. Ambrosius, Ph.D.; Stephen D. Anton, Ph.D.;
John A. Dodson, M.D.; Anthony P. Marsh, Ph.D.; Mary M. McDermott, M.D.;
Joe R. Nocera, Ph.D.; Catrine Tudor-Locke, Ph.D.; Daniel K. White,
Sc.D.; Veronica Yank, M.D.; Marco Pahor, M.D.; and Todd M. Manini, Ph.D.
Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The National Institutes of Health (National
Institute on Aging and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and
participating universities funded the LIFE study.