Want to live to 100? 10-minute daily walks can get you there, especially if you’re over 85

BARCELONA, Spain — A new study is urging people over the age of 85 to put their best foot forward for 10 minutes every day — in order to live even longer.

Researchers in South Korea found that one hour of walking per week displays a connection with greater longevity in people 85 and older. Regardless of age, health experts generally advise all adults to engage in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity. However, time spent sitting down tends to increase with age while the amount of physical activity declines.

“Adults are less likely to meet activity recommendations as they get older,” says study author Dr. Moo-Nyun Jin of Inje University Sanggye Paik Hospital, in a media release. “Our study suggests that walking at least one hour every week is beneficial for people aged 85 years and older. Put simply, walk for 10 minutes every day.”

Less than 1 in 10 seniors meet physical activity recommendations

The new study examined the connection between walking and longevity among seniors older than 85. The research team used data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) Senior database, which included more than 7,000 older adults who participated in the Korean National Health Screening Program between 2009 to 2014.

Each participant completed a survey on their leisure-time physical activity. Specifically, the questionnaire asked about the length of time each person spent walking at a slow pace, engaging in moderate intensity activities such as cycling and brisk walking, and vigorous intensity activities like running. The average age of the participants was 87 and just over two-thirds were women.

The study split the participants into five groups according to the time they spent walking at a slow pace each week. More than half (57.5%) did no slow walking, 8.5 percent walked for less than one hour, 12 percent walked for one to two hours, 8.7 percent walked for two to three hours, and 13.3 percent walked for more than three hours per week.

Around one in seven seniors (14.7%) participated in moderate intensity physical activity and 10.9 percent engaged in vigorous intensity physical activity. Only 7.6 percent met the general recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Walking cuts the risk of death by 40 percent

Of the 2,996 participants who walked at a slow pace every week, one-third (999) also engaged in moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity.

The research team analyzed the associations between walking, death from cardiovascular disease, and death from any cause after adjusting for the energy they expended during moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.

Compared to inactive 80-year-olds, those who walked at least one hour per week had a 40-percent and 39-percent lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular death, respectively.

“Walking was linked with a lower likelihood of dying in older adults, regardless of whether or not they did any moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Identifying the minimum amount of exercise that can benefit the oldest old is an important goal since recommended activity levels can be difficult to achieve. Our study indicates that walking even just one hour every week is advantageous to those aged 85 years and older compared to being completely inactive. The take home message is to keep walking throughout life,” Dr. Jin concludes.

The study authors are presenting their findings at ESC Congress 2022.

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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