The Most Inactive Older People Make Biggest Health Gains from Very Small Iincreases In Physical Activity

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Research over the last decade has shown how sedentary behaviour (too much sitting) increases the risk of chronic diseases and ill health.  There is now a clear need to reduce prolonged sitting, especially amongst the most inactive people who have most to gain, and for whom modest gains in mobility and muscle strength can lead to increases in physical function and more independence. However, the suggested recommended levels of physical activity has always been the same for older adults aged 65 and over as for young adults. Older adults often feel that these levels of recommended activity are unrealistic to achieve, and that the benefits of lesser ammounts of exercise can be overlooked.

However, Philip B Sparling and colleagues argue in a recent BMJ article, that a change in message to reduce sedentary time and increase light activities (standing,walking and light household activities) may prove more realistic. Health benefits begin with any increase above the very lowest levels of activity. Some activity is better than none. As sedentary behaviour increases with age, older people have the most to gain from small changes like getting up from a chair when watching television, or standing when talking on the phone.