In a large study of older Americans, researchers found that walking faster and longer can provide more cardiovascular benefits, such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. The findings still held true in those over the age of 75 – physical activity is strongly advised for those in this age group, even though there is little evidence to support it.
The mean age of the research participants was 73 and they were followed for 10 years. Information on usual activities was collected at baseline and regularly updated during the follow-up period. When the researchers evaluated different aspects of physical activity, each aspect was associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease.
Associations that were found included:
- Those with greater activity levels had a greater reduction of heart attack and stroke.
- Those who walked faster than three mph had a 50, 53 and 50 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and total cardiovascular disease in comparison to those who walked slower.
- Those who partook in leisure activities, such as mowing the lawn, swimming, biking and hiking had a lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and total cardiovascular disease compared to those who did not.
- Findings were similar in men and women, even for those over the age of 75.
First author, Luisa Soares-Miranda, Ph.D., said, “Our study of older Americans shows that, even late in life, moderate physical activity such as walking is linked to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. It appears that whether one increases the total distance or the pace of walking, CVD risk is lowered. Fortunately, walking is an activity that many older adults can enjoy.”
Senior author, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., concluded, “While national guidelines recommend that older adults engage in regular physical activity, surprisingly few studies have evaluated potential cardiovascular benefits after age 75, a rapidly growing age group. Our findings confirm a beneficial relationship between walking and leisure activities and CVD late in life. These results are especially relevant because, with advancing age, the ability to perform vigorous types of activity often decreases. Our findings support the importance of continuing light to moderate exercise to improve health across the lifespan.”