Great news for over-60s who like gardening! And for DIY enthusiasts and people who enjoy similar activities around the home and garage.

A recent study* from Stockholm, Sweden, showed that men over 60 who did these activities daily were nearly a third less likely to suffer from diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes than men who were less active. Indeed, these men gained almost as much benefit as those who were more vigorously active.

The study followed 4,000 men aged over 60 for twelve years, and obtained their results by repeatedly questioning the participants about 12 different activities and through laboratory tests.

These findings are valuable because many people as they get older find that they can’t fully achieve the recommended levels of physical activity – or are disinclined to do so. The research shows how everyone can derive significant benefit from the activities they can do and enjoy doing.

Activities like gardening and DIY entail standing, using upper and lower limb muscles and walking, and this increases metabolic rate, maintains muscle power, preserves bones and affects body metabolism. Though everyday activities may not involve more than moderate levels of exercise, these effects have been shown to be of clear benefit.

This doesn’t mean that greater levels of physical activity are unnecessary. Part of the study showed those who were even more active gained an even greater reduction in risk of the diseases.

Our society has become increasingly sedentary both at work and in leisure time. Sitting for long periods is one of the riskiest things anyone can do, and yet many older and retired people – and, indeed, many younger people – spend much of their day sitting. This study helps confirm the advice that we should all reduce sitting to a minimum and find something we like doing instead.

 

*Link to study abstract:  http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2013/10/08/bjsports-2012-092038

 

 

“Oh, there’s no point in me stopping smoking at my age. I’ve been smoking since I was 14, so all the damage’s done.”

This is a common excuse used by older people, and many doctors have gone along with it and not pressed the point. But how valid an excuse is it?

Smoking causes a lot of deaths and illness. It has been estimated that if there’s no reduction in smoking it will result in over a billion deaths in the 21st century. The World Health Organization blames it for 12% of male deaths and 6% of female deaths worldwide.

Many studies have shown that stopping smoking reduces this risk, with the benefits increasing the longer a person remains a non-smoker. But these studies have mostly been based on middle-aged people.

Now a recent study* has looked at evidence for smokers older than 60, bringing together the data from 17 studies in seven countries. It showed that, even up to the age of 80, stopping smoking was effective in reducing deaths.

This study firmly shows that older people should be encouraged to stop smoking if they can. Many 60- and 70-year-olds are likely to live to much older ages, with plenty of time to experience the benefits of giving up.

The study also shows how important it is for us all – younger people, older people and the medical profession – to be cautious about coming to erroneous conclusions about the health of older people without the information to back them up.

*Link to study

Professor Brian Kirby, author of How to Live to 110: Your comprehensive guide to a healthy life

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