Many seniors use walking as a form of exercise. A new study has reported that if older adults walk a little faster, or for a few extra blocks, they may promote their cardiovascular health. The findings were published online on November 90 in the journal Circulation.
The study authors note that guidelines suggest that seniors engage in regular physical activity to reduce cardiovascular disease; however, only a handful of studies have evaluated this relationship, particularly in individuals older than age 75. In addition, as one ages, the ability to perform some types of physical activity may decrease; thus, making light-moderate exercise such as walking especially important to meet recommended guidelines.
The study group comprised 4,207 American men and women with an average age of 73 years who did not suffer from cardiovascular disease when they were enrolled in the study. The seniors participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study and were followed from 1989 through 1999. Physical activity was evaluated and continually updated over the study period. The long-term effects of regular activity were assessed. Walking (pace, distance, and combined walking score) was updated each year from baseline through 1999. Leisure-time activity and exercise intensity were updated at baseline, 1992, and 1996. Cardiovascular disease (fatal or nonfatal myocardial infarction, coronary death, or stroke) was derived from medical records.
The investigators found that during 41,995 person-years of follow-up, 1,182 cardiovascular disease events occurred. They found that more intense physical activity PA was inversely related to coronary heart disease, stroke (especially ischemic stroke, which is due to blockage of a blood vessel in the brain), and total cardiovascular disease, even among seniors aged 75 years and older. Walking pace, distance, and overall walking score, leisure-time activity, and exercise intensity were each associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. For example, compared with a walking pace under 2 mph, seniors who habitually walked at a pace above 3 mph had lower risk of coronary heart disease (50% decreased risk), stroke (53% decreased risk) and cardiovascular disease (50% decreased risk).
The authors concluded that their findings support physical activity recommendations for walking in particular walking, to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease among weniors.
The authors are affiliated with: University of Porto, Porto, Portugal; University of Washington, Seattle, WA & New York Academy of Medicine, New York, NY; University of Washington, Seattle, WA & Group Health Research Institute, Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, WA; University of Washington, Seattle, WA; and Tufts University, Boston, MA.