Exercise for the over 65s - it's never too late to get active

22 November 2017        

Category: Research

It is well known that regular physical exercise has major health benefits. Recently published research has shown a benefit for even a small amount of exercise in people over 65.

A photo of somebody gardening

An 18 year-long study in more than 24,000 adults has shown that exercise taken later in life is beneficial for the health of your heart. 

The findings published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, showed that people over the age of 65  had a statistically significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular events, if they were physically active.  

The study included three age groups: younger than 55, 55 to 65 and over 65 years of age. Within each age group, participants were divided into three physical activity categories based on a questionnaire assessment at the start of the study. These categories were: moderately inactive, moderately active and active people.  The researchers then tracked whether the patients had a heart attack or stroke during the study. 

In people over 65 all physical activity levels reported a statistically significantly reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, compared to those who did no physical activity at all.

Something is better than nothing 

This finding is important because even the participants over 65 in the moderately inactive group had a 14% reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, compared to those who were completely inactive. This suggests that even small amounts of exercise are beneficial to heart health. All other age groups followed similar directional trends in association.

Dr Sangeeta Lachman, a cardiologist at the Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, who lead the research project, explains, “We observed an inverse association between physical activity and the risk of cardiovascular disease in both elderly and middle-aged people. As expected, there were more cardiovascular events in elderly participants, which could explain why the association only reached significance in this age category.”

Encouraging activity for all ages

Dr Lachman believes: “Elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening, and housework” and avoid being completely sedentary.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation added: “This research adds to our understanding of the relationship between physical activity and heart disease in older age. If you’re more physically active you give yourself the best chance of a heart-healthy retirement. It’s never too late to get active and a little physical activity is better than none.”