September 15, 2009

Physical Activity Adds To Lifespan, Even In 80s

Even people living in their 80's can add years to their lives through exercise, according to a new report.

Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers studied the effects of "continuing, increasing, or decreasing physical activity levels on survival, function, and health status among the very old."

Compared to sedentary individuals, the three-year survival rate among 85-year-olds was about three times higher.

For the study, researchers identified inactivity as getting less than four hours of exercise each week.

Researchers gathered mortality data from ages 70 to 88 years, comorbidity and functional status at ages 70, 78 and 85 through the Jerusalem Longitudinal Cohort Study of 1990-2008.

They analyzed 1861 people born in 1920 and 1921.

At age 70, the 8-year mortality rate among physically active and sedentary participants was 15.2 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively. At age 78, the 8-year mortality rate was 26.1 percent in physically active participants, compared with 40.8 percent of sedentary participants.

Furthermore, researchers noted that at 85 years of age, physically active participants had a 3-year mortality rate of 6.8 percent, compared to 24.4 percent in sedentary individuals.

"Among the very old, not only continuing but also initiating physical activity was associated with better survival and function," researchers wrote.

"This finding supports the encouragement of physical activity into advanced old age," they concluded.

"As little as four hours a week was as beneficial as more vigorous or prolonged activity," said study author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs, of Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem.


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