Guest article by Sam Hadadi,
Feel the benefits of exercise
Whether we choose to run, jump, swim or even box, we all know that exercising is one of the keys to staying fit and healthy.
Yet, before you get moving, there’s plenty to consider. What equipment do you need? Are you safe to exercise? And just how much exercise do we need to keep us in the best condition?
Thankfully, the latest research has that last question nailed – and it shows that pretty much everyone can fit time into their busy schedule to stay healthy and work out. In fact, just 15 minutes of daily exercise is enough to cut the risk of premature death in the elderly by 22%.
Dr David Hupin, a French physician behind the research, believes that this figure is easy for us all to achieve – no matter what our age.
He added: "Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment.
“But less than half of older adults achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity exercise each week."
To find out just how much exercise older people really do need, Hupin, along with a team of researchers, studied two cohorts.
First up, a French cohort of 1,011 subjects aged 65 in 2001 was followed over the next 12 years. Secondly, an international cohort of 122,417 subjects aged 60 were examined during a systematic review using databases, with a follow-up after around 10 years.
Throughout the research, physical activity was measured in Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes per week, which essentially means the amount of energy (calories) burned during each minute of physical activity.
As you can probably imagine, the number of MET minutes each person clocks up during a week depends on the intensity of physical activity. For example, moderate to intense activity ranges between 3 and 5.9 MET minutes, while vigorous intensity exercise is classified as 6 or more.
Experts believe that we should be getting exercise of around 500 and 1000 MET minutes every week. Based on this, the researchers looked at the link between MET minutes and premature death.
During their follow-up, there had been 88 (9%) and 18,122 (15%) deaths in the French and international cohorts, respectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found that the risk of death reduced as the level of exercise increased. Compared to those who were inactive, older adults with low, medium and high activity levels had a 22%, 28% and 35% lower risk of death, respectively.
A brisk walk and enjoying the view
Dr Hupin said: "These two studies show that the more physical activity older adults do, the greater the health benefit. The biggest jump in benefit was achieved at the low level of exercise, with the medium and high levels bringing smaller increments of benefit."
In fact, so positive were the effects of exercise that just low levels of activity – half the recommended amount – was enough to slash the rate of premature death in elderly people.
Dr Hupin continued: "We found that the low level of activity, which is half the recommended amount, was associated with a 22% reduced risk of death in older adults compared with those who were inactive.
"This level of activity equates to a 15 minute brisk walk each day."
Well, it’s quite simple, really – get moving! Whether you fancy taking a run, a stroll through the countryside, or going for a swim, this research shows that any amount of exercise is better than none. Simply set your timer and get that heart rate up for 15 minutes, every single day.
However, just a word of warning – go easy on yourself at first and always seek medical advice if you suffer from an injury or pre-existing condition!
Meg using a kettlebell
As Hupin concluded: "We think that older adults should progressively increase physical activity in their daily lives rather than dramatically changing their habits to meet recommendations. Fifteen minutes a day could be a reasonable target for older adults. Small increases in physical activity may enable some older adults to incorporate more moderate activity and get closer to the recommended 150 minutes per week."
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to get moving. Exercise can also help to keep you smiling, increase your energy levels and fight off infections and diseases1.
We have plenty of information on our website for living a healthy, happy lifestyle. There are even a couple of videos starring our resident PT, Karl Brown, showing you some simple exercises you can do at home. Just don’t forget to stretch afterwards2!
Now, what are you waiting for…? Lace up those trainers and get moving!
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.