Just 20 minutes of daily exercise at age 70 ‘halves the risk of heart disease in your 80s’

Exercising for just 20 minutes a day in your 70s can cut your risk of potentially fatal heart problems in half, a study suggests.

The researchers found that men ages 70 to 75 who regularly garden, bike, walk or do other types of exercise during that time are 52 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to those who are inactive.

Older women who exercise also have a lower risk, although the reduction is only 8 percent.

The researchers said their findings, published in the British medical journalreinforce the idea that ‘better late than never’ when it comes to exercising.

Exercise strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure.

The team said their findings support the recommendation that adults continue or start exercising in midlife or early life because there is “likely greater effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risks.”

A study of almost 6,000 Britons over the age of 50 shows that vigorous activity, such as running, swimming or tennis, is needed at least once a week to avoid long-term musculoskeletal pain

A study of almost 6,000 Britons over the age of 50 shows that vigorous activity, such as running, swimming or tennis, is needed at least once a week to avoid long-term musculoskeletal pain

Graphs show your risk of cardiovascular disease (top left), coronary heart disease (top right), heart failure (bottom left), and stroke (bottom right) in relation to how much you exercise a person.  A study of 2,574 Italians aged 65 and older found that 20 to 40 minutes of exercise per day triggered the greatest reduction in the risk of developing heart problems, and exercise above this point triggered the least benefit.  Researchers found no link between activity level and stroke

Graphs show your risk of cardiovascular disease (top left), coronary heart disease (top right), heart failure (bottom left), and stroke (bottom right) in relation to how much you exercise a person.  A study of 2,574 Italians aged 65 and older found that 20 to 40 minutes of exercise per day triggered the greatest reduction in the risk of developing heart problems, and exercise above this point triggered the least benefit.  Researchers found no link between activity level and stroke

Graphs show your risk of cardiovascular disease (top left), coronary heart disease (top right), heart failure (bottom left), and stroke (bottom right) in relation to how much you exercise a person. A study of 2,574 Italians aged 65 and older found that 20 to 40 minutes of exercise per day triggered the greatest reduction in the risk of developing heart problems, and exercise above this point triggered the least benefit. Researchers found no link between activity level and stroke

Researchers from the University of Padua and the University of Ferrara examined the health data of 2,754 people in Italy aged 65 and over for 20 years, or until their death.

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To determine the benefits of exercise in the future, the researchers monitored the participants’ activity levels and cases of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.

The volunteers filled out a questionnaire about their exercise habits. Moderate physical activity included walking, bowling, and fishing, while vigorous exercise included gardening, cycling, and swimming.

Participants were considered active if they exercised moderately or vigorously for more than 20 minutes a day, while less than 20 minutes were considered inactive.

Over the course of the study, 1,037 cardiovascular problems were recorded.

HOW MUCH EXERCISE SHOULD I DO?

Adults ages 19 to 64 are recommended to exercise every day.

The NHS says Britons should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

The advice is the same for disabled adults, pregnant women, and new mothers.

Exercising just once or twice a week can lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, water aerobics, bicycling, dancing, doubles tennis, pushing a lawnmower, hiking, and rollerblading.

Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, fast or hill biking, stair climbing, as well as sports such as soccer, rugby, netball, and hockey.

Exercising for 20 to 40 minutes a day was the sweet spot for improved health, with the greatest reduction in risk of heart disease and heart failure among those who exercised during this time period, the researchers said.

Maintaining 20 minutes of daily exercise during the sixties and seventies provided the greatest health benefits. It reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease among men by 52 percent.

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Meanwhile, the women saw an eight percent drop in cardiovascular disease risk if they consistently exercised for 20 minutes.

But those who increased their exercise from less than 20 minutes at 60 to more than 20 minutes at 70 also gained protection against cardiovascular disease.

The risk was reduced by 35 percent for men and 6 percent for women.

Despite seeing a smaller reduction in the risk of heart problems, active women were 19 percent less likely to die over the course of the study. But men still saw a greater protective effect of exercise, as they were 28 percent less likely to die.

The researchers said their findings show that exercise had the greatest protective effect at age 70.

At age 75, those who exercised were only marginally less likely to have heart problems, and at age 85, the risk was not reduced, according to the findings.

The researchers said this suggests that improving physical activity earlier in old age will have the biggest impact.

They noted that the study relied on participants self-reporting their exercise habits and there was no data on their physical activity levels at a younger age, which may have affected their risk of heart problems in adulthood.

And the study was observational, so other lifestyle factors may have affected the risk reduction among the more active volunteers.

At least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day should be recommended to achieve the greatest cardiovascular benefits.

The World Health Organization also recommends that older adults get 20 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise a day.

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In an article published alongside the study, Dr. Enrico Fabris and Dr. Gianfranco Sinagra, heart experts at the University of Trieste, said the mechanisms by which exercise reduces future risk of cardiovascular disease are not fully understood .

But this may be because exercise slows the thickening of the arteries and regulates blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.

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