Light Activity Heavily Impacts Seniors' Hearts

February 25, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Simple physical activity such as moving around the house can have a substantial effect on seniors' cardiovascular health.

Simple physical activity such as moving around the house can have a substantial effect on seniors’ cardiovascular (CV) health, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In fact, every 25 to 30 minutes of sedentary behavior may increase a senior’s hard coronary heart disease (HCHD) risk by 1%, according to the study.

The researchers’ main objective was to determine the impact of physical activity and sedentary behavior on CV risk in older adults with mobility limitations.

One of their findings was that duration of physical activity, rather than intensity, was more important to help seniors reduce their HCHD risk.

Physical activity was measured using an accelerometer that was worn on the hip at all times except while bathing, sleeping at night, or swimming. Anything below 100 accelerometer counts per minute was regarded as sedentary behavior.

The 1170 participants aged 74 to 84 years spent about 77% of their time being sedentary. About 16% of their remaining time was spent in activity registering 100 to 499 accelerometer counts per minute and about 7% in performing activities registering ≥500 counts per minute.

The researchers’ findings suggested that lower-intensity activities could counteract sedentary behavior and lower seniors’ CV risks. Activities such as moving around the house or leaving home can benefit seniors, the researchers said.

Lead study author Thomas W. Buford, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida College of Medicine, recognized that medications can affect seniors’ ability to engage in and benefit from higher-intensity activity, but lower-intensity activity should be manageable for most seniors regardless of their prescription medications.

Noting that pharmacists are a “critical player in the medical care of older adults,” Dr. Budford told Pharmacy Times that “pharmacists can likely feel comfortable recommending that patients decrease the amount of time spent being sedentary by incorporating more light activities such as walking.”

Previous research has shown that older US adults tend to spend about 60% of their time being sedentary, and the seniors in this study typically spent 77% of their time sedentary.