A study found that exercising just 20 minutes a day at the age of seventy could halve the risk of potentially fatal heart problems.
Researchers found that men aged 70 to 75 who regularly garden, cycle, walk, or engage in other sports during that time were 52% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to those who does not lead an active lifestyle.
Older women who exercise are also at lower risk, although the decline is only 8 percent.
The researchers said their results, published in the British Medical Journal, support the idea that “better late than never” when it comes to exercise.
Exercise strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure.
The team said their findings support advice to adults to continue or start exercising in middle and early age because there is “probably greater efficacy in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.”
A study of almost 6,000 Britons over the age of 50 found that vigorous activity such as running, swimming or tennis at least once a week is needed to prevent musculoskeletal pain in the long term.
Graphs show the risk of heart disease (top left), coronary heart disease (top right), heart failure (bottom left) and stroke (bottom right) according to how much exercise a person gets. A study of 2,574 Italians aged 65 and over found that exercising for 20 to 40 minutes a day produced the largest reduction in the risk of heart problems, with exercise beyond that providing the least benefit. The researchers found no link between activity level and stroke.
Researchers from the University of Padua and the University of Ferrara looked at the health data of 2,754 people in Italy aged 65 and over for 20 years or until they died.
To determine the benefits of exercise later in life, the researchers looked at participants’ activity levels and incidences of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke.
Volunteers completed a questionnaire about their exercise habits. Moderate physical activity included walking, bowling and fishing, while vigorous exercise included gardening, cycling and swimming.
Participants were considered active if they exercised moderately or vigorously for more than 20 minutes per day, while less than 20 minutes were considered inactive.
During the study, 1037 cardiovascular diseases were recorded.
HOW MUCH EXERCISES SHOULD I DO?
Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to exercise daily.
According to the NHS, Britons should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.
The recommendations are the same for adults with disabilities, pregnant women, and new mothers.
Exercising just once or twice a week can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke.
Moderate activity includes brisk walking, water aerobics, cycling, dancing, doubles tennis, lawnmower pushing, hiking, and rollerblading.
Vigorous exercise includes running, swimming, fast cycling or uphill, climbing stairs, and sports such as football, rugby, netball, and hockey.
The researchers said that exercising for 20 to 40 minutes a day was the best way to improve health, with the sharpest reduction in the risk of heart disease and heart failure among those who exercised during that time.
Maintaining 20 minutes of daily exercise for sixty and seventy years produced the greatest health benefits. This reduced the risk of heart disease among men by 52 percent.
Meanwhile, women saw an eight percent reduction in their risk of cardiovascular disease if they consistently exercised for 20 minutes.
But those who increased their physical activity from less than 20 minutes at age 60 to more than 20 minutes at age 70 were also protected from cardiovascular disease.
The risk was reduced by 35 percent for men and six percent for women.
Despite a smaller reduction in the risk of heart disease, active women had a 19 percent less chance of dying during the study. But men still saw a greater protective effect from exercise, as they were 28% less likely to die.
The researchers said their results show that exercise has the greatest protective effect at age 70.
According to the data, by the age of 75, those who exercise are only slightly less likely to suffer from heart problems, and by the age of 85, the risk does not decrease.
The researchers say this suggests that improving physical activity at an earlier age would have the biggest impact.
They noted that the study was based on participants reporting their exercise habits and there was no data on their levels of physical activity at younger ages, which could have affected their risk of heart problems later in life.
And the study was observational, so other lifestyle factors may have contributed to the risk reduction among the more active volunteers.
For maximum cardiovascular benefits, at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise per day should be recommended.
The World Health Organization also recommends that older adults get 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day.
In a paper published alongside the study, Dr. Enrico Fabris and Dr. Gianfranco Sinagra, heart experts at the University of Trieste, said the mechanisms by which exercise reduces future risk of cardiovascular disease are not fully understood.
But it may be due to exercise, which slows down thickening of the arteries and regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.