Just one hour of running a week can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke in the over-60s, a new study has found. Researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea discovered that pensioners who upped their activity levels lessened their chances of getting the conditions.
Test subjects who went from a sedentary lifestyle to exercising three or four times a week saw their risk of heart issues cut by 11 per cent in comparison to those who didn’t work out. While this may seem like a big change for some people, who may not have prioritised physical activity throughout their lives, it is less than the amount recommended by the NHS.
Official guidelines suggest a person in their older years should aim to do between 70 and 150 minutes of exercise a week. The South Korean scientists found that as little as one hour could make a significant difference, however, showing that small changes can have a big impact.
Looking at the situation from the other direction, the study observed that people who previously worked out five times a week and then stopped had their chances increased by 27 per cent. It took more than a million individuals into consideration when establishing these patterns.
Individuals in the study with disabilities and chronic conditions, including high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, also benefited from becoming more active. The researchers are so confident of their results, they’ve suggested physical activity should be prescribed to older patients to help prevent health problems.
Kyuwoong Kim, from the research team, said: “The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease.
“While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, our research suggests that it is necessary. We believe that community-based programmes to encourage physical activity among older adults should be promoted by governments.
“Also, from a clinical perspective, physicians should ‘prescribe’ physical activity along with other recommended medical treatments for people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Most people will be aware that the benefits of regular physical activity have been well-established through multiple studies over the years. What remains unclear, however, is how many of the gains remain if the level of exercise decreases.
Looking at the exercise levels of 1,119,925 people over the age of 60, the study performed health checks on them in 2009-10 and in 2011-12. The scientists calculated their levels of vigorous and moderate exercise and the difference in them between the two checks.
For the purposes of the study, half an hour of brisk walking or cycling constituted a moderate workout and 20 minutes of running or swimming was considered vigorous. Finally, they identified 114,856 cases of heart disease or strokes in the participants during the period from January 2013 to December 2016.
They then analysed the results to discover patterns between increasing activity in old age and allowing it to tail off. This proved it’s never too late to start, but stopping can undo previous good work to improve heart health.