Reducing being sedentary and increasing physical activity improve heart health and reduce mortality even in older age

According to a recent study conducted in Oulu, low physical activity and excessive sedentary time are linked to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and mortality in older adults. However, these encouraging results suggest that reducing sedentary time and increasing even light physical activity may substantially lower the risk.

This study with 660 men and women aged 67–70 was a sub study of a population-based Oulu1945 survey conducted by the University of Oulu and ODL Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine. Physical activity and sedentary time were monitored with a wrist-worn accelerometer for two weeks. The Framingham risk scores were used to estimate the cardiovascular disease risk based on participants sex, age, blood pressure, cholesterol values, diabetes, medication and smoking. The data on deaths were monitored during six years after the physical activity measurement.

High amount of light or moderate to vigorous physical activity and low time spent sedentary were associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk in older people. High amount of light physical activity and low sedentary time were associated with lower mortality rate.

“Our study shows that, also doing light physical activity and reducing being sedentary may produce substantial health benefits for older people. The current physical activity recommendations may be too demanding for many older adults. However, according to our results even reducing sedentary time and being active in daily life are important and should not be underestimated. Most of the existing studies have investigated the associations between physical activity, sedentary behaviors and diagnosed heart diseases. Our novel finding is that participating in physical activity and reducing sedentary time can prevent cardiovascular diseases even in older age.” says researcher Miia Länsitie. The study is part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Oulu.

Research publication: Länsitie M, Kangas M, Jokelainen J, Venojärvi M, Timonen M, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Korpelainen R. Cardiovascular disease risk and all-cause mortality associated with accelerometer- measured physical activity and sedentary time ‒ a prospective population-based study in older adults. BMC Geriatrics (2022) 22:729.

Last updated: 8.9.2022