Our physical activity guidelines are getting a re-write.
Michael LaMonte, research associate professor in the department of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo, discusses these new rules, especially for older adults.
An expert on healthy aging, Michael LaMonte led the first study in older women showing that even light physical activity can reduce the risk of death in women over the age of 65. Mike’s research focuses on the epidemiology of cardiovascular disease and other diseases that lead to early mortality in postmenopausal women. He also led a major study reporting that gum disease and tooth loss may be associated with a higher risk of death in postmenopausal women. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association’s Council on Epidemiology and Prevention.
Every Movement Counts
Physical activity guidelines for Americans suggest that people engage in moderate to vigorous activity in order to reap health benefits including reduced risk of death. These recommendations have applied to all adults.
But many older adults are not able to achieve this level of physical activity, because of poorer physical conditioning or existing health conditions.
Promoting only moderate to vigorous activity for healthy lifestyles may be wrong, at least in later life.
My colleagues and I conducted a study on more than 6,000 women ages 63 to 99 and the results tell us that there’s a new message we should be sending to older adults: every movement counts.
In our study, women who participated in light physical activity for 30 minutes a day had a 12 percent reduction in mortality risk. Many of the women were simply being active around the home — going out to the mailbox, folding clothes, sweeping the floor, casual walking and the like.
Our study shows, for the first time in older women, that physical activity, even at levels below guideline recommendations, can yield positive health benefits.
That finding, that even light physical activity can reduce death risk, that doing something is better than doing nothing, is significant. In an aging society, promoting light activity as an alternative to prolonged sedentary time has important public health relevance.