Posted on Jul 05, 2023, 5 p.m.
According to a study published in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes conducted by the University of Cambridge, a reduction in the amount of time spent being physically active among adults aged 60+ is linked to lower quality of life, and the same is also true for increases in the amount of time being spent sedentary highlighting the importance of older adults remaining active.
Participating in regular physical activity, particularly when it is moderate intensity and increases your heart rate, has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing a number of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers.
NHS recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Additionally, older adults are recommended to break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light physical activity whenever possible, or at least stand as this has distinct benefits for older adults.
For this study, the researchers examined the activity levels of 1,433 participants aged 60+ using accelerometers who were recruited from the EPIC-Norfolk Study. Along with examining activity levels, the team looked at health-related quality of life, which is a measure of health and well-being that includes pain, anxiety/mood, and the ability to care for oneself.
Participants were given a score based on their responses to a questionnaire with 0 representing the worst quality of life and 1 representing the best quality of life. Lower quality of life scores are linked with an increased risk of hospitalization, worse outcomes following hospitalization, and early death.
The participants were followed up for an average of almost 6 years later to analyze any changes in behavior and quality of life. On average at follow-up both men and women were participating in about 24 minutes less daily moderate to vigorous physical activity, and totally sedentary time increased by an average of around 33 minutes a day for men and about 38 minutes a day for women.
Those who participated in more moderate to vigorous physical activity and were spending less time being sedentary at the follow-up had a higher quality of life, and one hour per day spent being more active was associated with a 0.02 higher quality of life score. However, for every minute a day of less moderate to vigorous physical activity at the follow-up quality of life scores dropped by 0.03, meaning that those who spent 15 minutes a day being less active would have seen their scores drop by 0.45.
Increased sedentary behaviors were not surprisingly also associated with poorer quality of life, with those doing so experiencing a drop in their scores of 0.012 for every minute a day in increased total sedentary time at the follow-up, meaning that those who spent 15 minutes more a day sitting down saw their scores drop by 0.18.
To put these findings into a more relevant clinical context, 0.1 point improvement in quality of life scores has previously been associated with a 6.9% decrease in the risk of early death and a 4.2% reduction in the risk of hospitalization. The researchers explained that due to measuring physical activity and sedentary behavior at different times, they are fairly confident that they have demonstrated a causal link, which is that quality of life improves because people remain more physically active.
"Keeping yourself active and limiting -- and where you can, breaking up -- the amount of time you spend sitting down is really important whatever stage of life you're at. This seems to be particularly important in later life, when it can lead to potentially significant improvements to your quality of life and your physical and mental well-being,” said Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge.
"There are several ways in which improvements in our physical behaviours might help maintain a better quality of life. For example, more physical activity reduces pain in common conditions such as osteoarthritis, and we know that being more physically active improves muscle strength which allows older adults to continue to care for themselves. Similarly, depression and anxiety are linked to quality of life, and can be improved by being more active and less sedentary,” added Yerrakalva.
To keep yourself physically active in older age the researchers recommend trying gardening, dancing, tennis, riding a bicycle, and taking a brisk daily walk for around 20 minutes.
Research has shown that if you try an activity that you enjoy the chances are better that you will keep it up. There are many activities that you can do alone or with friends or loved ones such as pickleball, ping pong, badminton, shuffleboard, bowling, golf, frisbee, frisbee-golf, bocce ball, croquet, swimming, water polo, yoga, water aerobics, Tai Chi, racquetball, lawn bowling, billiards, canoeing, fishing, archery, horseshoes, cross country skiing, curling, walking soccer, and performance arts. Not only will these activities help to keep you active but they will also provide opportunities to bond with other people, and more importantly, to just have fun.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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