November 2022

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Health Capsule

Many Types of Exercise Can Lengthen Older Adults’ Lives

Getting enough physical activity is vital for your health at any age. Guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes (or two and a half hours) of moderate exercise each week. But does it matter what types of activities you do?

A team of researchers asked this question about older adults. They looked at data from more than 250,000 participants in a national survey. People answered questions about their participation in seven different recreational activities. These included running or jogging, swimming, racquet sports, golf, and walking. The survey also tracked cycling and other aerobic exercise. Participants were first surveyed in the 1990s. Their average age was 70 when they responded to the last survey.

The researchers examined the risk of death during the 12-year study. They compared how different levels and types of physical activity lowered that risk.

Older adults who got the recommended amount of activity had a 13% lower risk of death compared with those who were inactive. Playing racquet sports or running showed the greatest risk reductions. But all activities provided benefit.

“The most important thing an inactive older adult can do to improve their health is find an activity that they enjoy and can stick with,” says NIH researcher Dr. Eleanor Watts, who led the study.