JAN 07, 2017 3:06 PM PST

Regular Exercise Recommended for Grandma

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

We all hear some form of advice about exercise, whether it is about losing weight, improving the immune system, or reducing the risk of heart disease. But does the same go for older adults, whose muscular and skeletal systems might work a little differently? Researchers from the American Geriatrics Society considered this question.

Image credit: Exercise & Fitness

Abstaining from physical activity for long periods of time is so dangerous for the body in so many different ways that scientists actually call the tendency to be inactive “sitting disease.” This “disease” is thought to cause over three million deaths worldwide every year.

On the other side of things, multiple studies provide evidence for regular exercise reducing the risk of death from heart disease, specifically for middle-aged people. We know that exercise is “healthy,” but what makes it so? Exercise has a variety of effects on the body, including:

  • Maintaining healthy body weight by burning calories
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing the risk of blood clots
  • Stabilizing blood sugar levels
  • Improving the ratio of unhealthy to healthy cholesterol in the body (LDL and HDL)

LDL cholesterol or “low-density lipoprotein” and HDL cholesterol or “high-density lipoprotein” are the “bad” and “good” types of cholesterol that scientists often connect to metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

From the American Geriatrics Society, researchers used data from a national healthy study conducted in Finland between 1997 and 2007. Nearly 2500 Male and female adults between the ages of 65 and 74 participated in the study, which included a questionnaire that surveyed lifestyle habits like smoking and exercise tendencies as well as information like education, height and weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Researchers followed participants until 2013, when they collected data on which participants died and how. Specifically, they looked for any hint that physical activity during leisure time for these older adults was linked to a reduction in risk of death from both all causes and from cardiovascular disease.

They found that moderate and high levels of physical activity were indeed associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and death from all causes, including but not limited to heart attack and stroke.

It doesn’t take running a marathon or building big muscles to experience the heart-healthy benefits from physical activity. Researchers from the study encourage all kinds of exercise, even for individuals who have previously been inactive. Just taking short walks regularly can make a difference.

The present study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Sources: American Geriatrics Society, American Heart Association

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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