Staying physically active in older age is tremendously important to maintain strength and mobility which helps seniors remain independent and prevent chronic illness. Getting up and moving frequently is beneficial to avoid a sedentary lifestyle but new research from the National Institute on Aging has found that short or fragmented bouts of physical activity are not as beneficial as longer periods of exercise.
Using data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers found that older adults who were frequently active for five minutes or less after being sedentary were more likely to die than participants who were active for longer periods of time. This study looked not only at overall daily activity but also at how fragmented bouts of being physically active were; shorter periods of activity proved to be an indicator of declining health and premature death.
According to the Johns Hopkins study, published in JAMA Network Open, as activity fragmentation increased among the 548 healthy study participants over the age of 65, mortality risk also increased. For each 10 percent increase in activity fragmentation, in which active periods were less than 5 minutes, the risk for death increased by 49 percent.
While counting daily steps may be a valuable way to track physical activity, paying attention to the length of active periods could be a better measure of physical function capability and an opportunity to make lifestyle changes to improve overall health and well-being. Seniors are quickly becoming a larger proportion of the population and are among the most sedentary of adults. Developing strategies to provide early interventions can help keep the growing numbers of older adults healthy and independent longer.
According to United States exercise guidelines, adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week but only about half of people are meeting this goal. By starting a regular walking habit, older adults can help protect their health and longevity. Start out slowly, gradually building in intensity and duration and always talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
Learn more tips for staying safe and enjoying your walks by following this link to the MyFitnessPal blog.