High Intensity Physical Activity Could Reduce Mortality Risk Among Women

Mortality risk may be significantly lowered among older women who participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Engaging in physical activity is recommended for optimal health and disease prevention, regardless of age. New findings from a study published by Circulation suggest that more physical activity at higher intensities could result in a significant reduction of mortality risk among older women.

The authors discovered that light intensity exercise or sedentary behavior was not linked to mortality rate; however, they caution that light activity may be beneficial for other factors that were not evaluated.

Previous studies showed that mortality rates were up to 30% lower among physically active individuals compared with less active individuals, according to the authors of the current study. Other research also suggests that physical activity can benefit older individuals and increase their mobility.

In the current study, the authors evaluated physical activity levels using a wearable device. The triaxial accelerometer has more specific measurements than a traditional wearable device, which allows for more accurate results.

“We used devices to better measure not only higher intensity physical activities, but also lower intensity activities and sedentary behavior, which has become of great interest in the last few years,” said first author I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD.

Included in the study were 16,741 women who wore the device for at least 10 hours per day for at least 4 days. Patients were an average age of 71 years and were generally healthy. During the follow-up period, 207 women died.

Patients who participated in moderate to vigorous physical activity—such as brisk walking—were observed to have a 60% to 70% lower risk of mortality compared with the least active patients, according to the study.

The authors noted that participating in light intensity activity, such as housework or slow walking, or being sedentary was not independently linked to mortality risk. They caution that these findings do not suggest that individuals should not participate in light activity.

The authors included this population in the analysis to address knowledge gaps for the elderly population, according to the study.

“Younger people in their 20s and 30s generally can participate in vigorous intensity activities, such as running or playing basketball,” Dr Lee said. “But for older people, vigorous intensity activity may be impossible, and moderate intensity activity may not even be achievable. So, we were interested in studying potential health benefits associated with light intensity activities that most older people can do.”

These findings support the current guidelines that suggest individuals participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, according to the authors.

“We hope to continue this study in the future to examine other health outcomes, and particularly to investigate the details of how much and what kinds of activity are healthful. What is irrefutable is the fact that physical activity is good for your health,” Dr Lee said.