Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally. That "to do" list of chores and errands could actually provide a variety of health benefits.
The study, conducted at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that women over age 65 who were engaged in regular light physical activity had a reduction in the risk of mortality. The study got published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
"Every movement counts," said Andrea LaCroix, PhD, senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego. "A lot of what we do on a daily basis is improving our health, such as walking to the mail box, strolling around the neighborhood, folding clothes and straightening up the house. Activities like these account for more than 55 percent of how older individuals get their daily activity."
"Improving levels of physical activity both light and moderate could be almost as effective as rigorous regular exercise at preventing a major chronic disease," said LaCroix, chief of the Division of Epidemiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "We don't have to be running marathons to stay healthy. The paradigm needs to shift when we think about being active."
The study also found that the benefit of light physical activity extended to all subgroups examined, including different racial/ethnic backgrounds, obese and non-obese women, women with high and low functional ability and women older and younger than age 80.
"Older people expend more energy doing the same kinds of activities they did when younger, so their daily movement has to accommodate for this," said LaCroix. "Think of it as taking a pill (activity level) at different doses (amounts of time) depending on the age of the patient. It's not one size fits all."
Current national public health guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week for adults. The guidelines recommend persons 65 and older follow the adult guidelines to the degree their abilities and conditions allow.
"Our study shows, for the first time using device-measured light physical activity in older women, that there are health benefits at activity levels below the guideline recommendations. With the increasing baby boomer population in the United States, it is imperative that future health guidelines recommend light physical activity in addition to more strenuous activity," said LaCroix. "When we get up from the couch and chair and move around, we are making good choices and contributing to our health."