Research suggests that 30 minutes of physical activity 6 days a week, regardless of its intensity, is linked to a 40% lower risk of death among older adult males.

The findings appear online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

According to a news release from BMJ, the results also indicate that increasing physical activity levels in this age group appears to be as good for health as quitting smoking.

The release notes that the researchers based their findings on individuals participating in the Oslo Study, which invited nearly 26,000 men born between 1923 and 1932 for a health check in 1972-3 (Oslo I).

A total of 15,000 agreed to participate. Researchers then assessed their height, weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Participants were also asked whether they smoked. The release adds they were asked to respond to a validated survey (Gothenburg questionnaire) regarding their weekly leisure time physical activity levels.

The researchers categorized individuals as sedentary (watching TV/reading); light (walking or cycling, including to and from work for at least 4 hours a week); moderate (formal exercise, sporting activities, heavy gardening for at least 4 hours a week); and vigorous (hard training or competitive sports several times a week).

The release reports that some 6,000 of the surviving men repeated the process in 2000 (Oslo II) and were monitored for nearly 12 years to see if physical activity level over time was linked to a lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease, or any cause, and if its impact were equivalent to quitting smoking.

During the monitoring period, the release says, 2,154 out of the 5,738 men who had gone through both health checks died.

Researchers say the analysis suggested less than an hour week of light physical activity was not linked to any meaningful reduction in risk of death from any cause. Yet, more than an hour was linked to a 32% to 56% lower risk.

Results indicate less than an hour of vigorous activity was associated with a reduction in risk of between 23% and 37% for cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. The release states that the more time spend engaging in vigorous exercise, the lower the risk seemed to be, falling by between 36% and 49%.

Men who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity during their leisure time lived 5 years longer, on average, than those who were classified as sedentary, researchers note.

Additionally, the release points out that factoring in that the risk of death from heart disease/stroke rises with age, made only a slight difference to the results.

Overall, the study’s results suggest that 30 minutes of physical activity—of light or vigorous intensity—6 days a week was associated with a 40% lower risk of death from any cause.

The release highlights that the study was observational, and as such no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. The researchers also emphasize that only the healthiest participants in the first wave of the study took part in the second wave, which may have lowered overall absolute risk.

Yet, the differences in risk of death between those where inactive and active were apparent, even at the age of 73, the researchers indicate.

[Source(s): Science Daily, BMJ]