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Octogenarians should walk 10 minutes a day to prolong life

One hour of walking per week is associated with greater longevity in people aged 85 years and above, according to research presented at ESC Congress 2022.

Regardless of age, adults are advised to do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity activity, or an equivalent combination.2 However, in adults, sedentary time tends to increase with age3 while the amount of physical activity declines.4

“Adults are less likely to meet activity recommendations as they get older,” said study author Dr. Moo-Nyun Jin of Inje University Sanggye Paik Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea. “Our study suggests that walking at least one hour every week is beneficial for people aged 85 years and older. Put simply, walk for 10 minutes every day.”

This study examined the association between walking and the risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among adults aged 85 years and older. The researchers used information from the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) Senior database. The study included 7,047 adults aged 85 or older who underwent the Korean National Health Screening Programme in 2009 to 2014. Participants completed a questionnaire on leisure-time physical activity which asked the length of time spent each week on walking at a slow pace, moderate intensity activity such as cycling and brisk walking, and vigorous intensity activity such as running.   

The average age of participants was 87 years and 4,813 (68.3%) were women. Participants were classified into five groups according to the time spent walking at a slow pace per week. Some 4,051 (57.5%) participants did no slow walking, 597 (8.5%) walked less than one hour, 849 (12.0%) walked one to two hours, 610 (8.7%) walked two to three hours, and 940 (13.3%) walked more than three hours per week.

In the entire study population of 7,047 adults, 1,037 (14.7%) participants did moderate intensity physical activity and 773 (10.9%) did vigorous intensity physical activity. Only 538 participants (7.6%) met the guideline recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Of the 2,996 participants who walked at a slow pace every week, 999 (33%) also did moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity.

The researchers analysed the associations between walking, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular mortality after adjusting for energy expended on moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Compared to inactive individuals, those who walked at least one hour per week (i.e. the three highest walking categories) had 40% and 39% lower relative risks of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively.

Dr. Jin said: “Walking was linked with a lower likelihood of dying in older adults, regardless of whether or not they did any moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Identifying the minimum amount of exercise that can benefit the oldest old is an important goal since recommended activity levels can be difficult to achieve. Our study indicates that walking even just one hour every week is advantageous to those aged 85 years and older compared to being completely inactive. The take home message is to keep walking throughout life.”

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