Stay Active As You Age for a Better Quality of Life

A groundbreaking study of nearly 1,500 adults has uncovered a startling link between reduced physical activity and a decline in quality of life among individuals aged 60 and above. Similarly, the study showed that an increase in sedentary behavior, such as watching TV or reading, further compounds this decline. These compelling findings emphasize the urgency of promoting and supporting an active lifestyle among older adults.

Engaging in physical activity, specifically of moderate intensity that increases your heart rate, has been proven to lower the likelihood of developing various diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. To maintain good health, the National Health Service advises adults to dedicate a minimum of 150 minutes per week to moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes to vigorous-intensity activity. Additionally, older adults are encouraged to break up long periods of sitting with light activity or at least standing.

The study from the Univ. of Cambridge was conducted on 1,433 individuals aged 60 and older. The team measured their activity levels using accelerometers and also assessed their health-related quality of life. This measure includes factors like pain, self-care ability, and anxiety/mood. Participants filled out a questionnaire and were assigned a score that ranged from 0 (poor quality of life) to 1 (excellent). Lower scores are linked with a higher likelihood of hospitalization, poor outcomes post-hospitalization, and early death.

In a follow-up study conducted after nearly 6 years, changes in behavior and quality of life were observed in the participants. On average, both women and men experienced a decrease in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by 24 minutes per day, while their sedentary time was higher for women by 38 minutes and men 33 minutes. Interestingly, individuals who were more physically activity and had less time being sedentary during the initial assessment had a increased quality of life later on. Specifically, every additional hour of daily activity was associated with a 0.02 increased quality of life score. Likewise, for every minute of decreased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured six years later, quality of life scores decreased by 0.03. This implies that individuals who reduced their activity level by 15 minutes a day would have seen their score drop by 0.45.

In order to understand the significance of the findings, it is important to consider the context of clinical outcomes. Previous studies have shown that even a small 0.1 point increase in quality of life scores is associated with a noteworthy 6.9% decrease in early death and a 4.2% decrease in the risk of being hospitalized. The research team is confident in establishing a causal relationship between quality of life and physical activity as they were able to measure these variables at different time points. This means that continued physical activity leads to improved quality of life.

Improving physical behaviors can greatly enhance our quality of life. Engaging in more physical activity, for instance, has shown to alleviate pain in conditions like osteoarthritis. Furthermore, increased physical activity contributes to improved muscle strength, enabling older adults to maintain their independence. Similarly, addressing depression and anxiety, which have a significant impact on quality of life, can be achieved by adopting a more active and less sedentary lifestyle.

By embracing an active lifestyle, older individuals can significantly enhance their overall well-being and maintain a high quality of life.

To view the original scientific study click below:
Bidirectional associations of accelerometer-assessed physical activity and sedentary time with physical function among older English adults: the EPIC-Norfolk cohort study