A study of people over the age of 60 found that, while they may struggle to exercise vigorously – for fear of pain or injury – simply getting off the couch was enough to increase their longevity.
More than 4,000 elderly people were surveyed in the Swedish study. Those who avoided a sedentary life by finding small things to do around the home were linked to a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at activities that were less strenuous than exercise and more active that sitting down. Examples of such activities included home repairs, cutting the grass, picking fruit, fixing the car and even hunting.
Not surprisingly, participants who were more active on a daily basis displayed the lowest risk of heart attack. However those who were still active without exercising still had a lower risk than those who did nothing.
“A generally active daily life had important beneficial associations with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults, which seemed to be regardless of regular exercise,” the report from researchers at the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm said.
The 12-year-study found being active reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke by 27 per cent and death by any cause by 30 per cent.
Scientists suggest the reason for this may be that sitting for long periods of time lowers our metabolic rate and can even alter hormones produced in muscle tissue – both of which could have disastrous effects on our overall health and wellbeing.
“Although this study only examined people aged 60, it is reasonable to assume that the more active someone is throughout their life, the lower their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Tim Chico, honorary consultant cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
“The message I take from this study is simple. If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, be more active. Don’t sit down for long periods; get up on your feet and do something you enjoy that involves moving around,” Dr Choo added.