We sit a lot more now than our ancestors did. As a result we are becoming more inactive which is not good for our health and wellbeing. And certainly not good for our heart. Being physically inactive is the cause for many ailments. In fact physical inactivity worldwide is said to cause 3.2 million deaths annually. This modern day ailment is often referred to as the “sitting disease”.
Medical experts are aware that regular physical exercise reduces death from all causes and particularly from heart disease in middle age people. However, very little is known about the benefit of exercise in older people relating to death due to heart disease.
A Finnish study examined whether leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) could reduce deaths from all-causes and particularly from cardiovascular disease in older adults.
This study consisted of 2,465 participants aged 65-74 and both men and women. These participants were drawn from the national health study conducted between 1997 and 2007.
The participants had to answer a questionnaire where they recorded their lifestyle habits including whether they smoked or not and if they exercised. Researchers also knew about their level of education, height and weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels – all recorded and checked by trained nurses.
The study was followed until the end of 2013. The scientists then obtained records for the Finnish mortality register to examine how many of the participants had died and from what causes.
What they found is that moderate to high LTPA was associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
The researchers explain that physical exercise acts through many pathways to improve the heart’s health. Physical activity maintains a healthy body weight and body composition ratio, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of blood cloths, improves cardiac function and respiratory fitness. It helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance and the ratio of unhealthy to healthy cholesterol in the body.
The researchers explain that for older adults who have been sedentary for a while, reaching a vigorous level of activity is unlikely. But taking a walk is the easiest and the safest way of achieving moderate level of intensity which can reduce their risk of death by cardiovascular problems.
If you are moderately active, physical exercise is already improving your health in many ways and especially the health of your heart. But if you have been sedentary for a while, especially if you are of mature age, it is certainly beneficial to even take a walk to get started on improving your heart health and your overall wellbeing.