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

 

 

An interesting new study* provides evidence that it’s better to get up and move around every so often rather than sit still for long periods.

If you work all day sat at a desk or workbench, or spend your evenings sitting in front of a TV, computer or book, this could be an important result.

The study looked at overweight people in the period following a meal. It showed that walking around for a couple of minutes every 20 minutes improved the level of glucose and insulin in their blood, compared with simply sitting still.

The importance of this is that high levels of glucose and insulin over many years can be associated with heart disease, cancer and other diseases. In the shorter term, they make it more likely you will put on body fat, and they make it
harder to lose weight. Ideally, you want them both to return to normal levels as soon as possible after a meal.

It would seem wise for everyone not to sit still for long periods, especially in the hours after a meal. Get up and move around every so often.

An earlier study** has already shown the long-term dangers of sitting still for long periods. It found that people who watch many hours of television a week – and so are sitting still for a long time – are more likely to suffer heart disease and diabetes. The recent study could go some way towards explaining this.

The study really brings home the importance of physical activity for your body. It shows that even occasional light activity such as a two-minute walk can have a positive effect on important processes going on inside you.

Greater amounts of physical activity bring greater benefits, of course. It has long been known that regular physical activity helps prevent heart and blood vessel disease, counter diabetes, reduce the risk of many common cancers and lose body
fat. And that’s just a few amongst many other benefits.

Inactive people could start with ordinary everyday things like walking that bit extra every day, taking the stairs rather than the lift, and asking whether you really need to use the car for short trips. From there, we recommend building
up your exercise to even higher levels – an hour a day in total if you can manage it. This should bring significant benefits to your long-term health.

But, as this study shows, every little helps – and more than you might think!

 

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

* The study about getting up and moving: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2012/02/22/dc11-1931

** The study about sitting in front of TV for long periods: http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/23/2448.short

 

 

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