A recently conducted Cambridge study establishes a significant correlation between increased physical activity, decreased sedentary behavior, and an improved quality of life in adults over the age of sixty. The study scrutinized the daily habits of nearly 1,500 adults, revealing that reductions in physical activity or increases in inactive pastimes such as television viewing or reading adversely affect the quality of life.
This compelling evidence underscores the critical need to foster an active lifestyle amongst older adults. Regular physical exercise, particularly of moderate-intensity that stimulates the heart rate, mitigates the risk of several prevalent diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Accordingly, the National Health Service advocates that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. Older adults, particularly, are advised to intersperse sedentary periods with bouts of light activity or at least standing, as it renders distinct health benefits.
In an effort to discern the impact of activity levels on health-related quality of life, a team from the University of Cambridge embarked on an investigation involving 1,433 participants, all aged 60 or over, as part of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer)-Norfolk study. Utilizing accelerometers to record physical activity, the team concurrently evaluated the participants’ health-related quality of life, a holistic measure encompassing physical pain, self-care capability, and emotional wellbeing.
Participants’ responses to questionnaires were quantified into a score between 0 (indicating the worst possible quality of life) and 1 (indicating the best possible quality of life). Lower scores corresponded to increased hospitalization risk, inferior outcomes post-hospitalization, and premature death.
After approximately six years, the participants’ activity levels and quality of life were reassessed. Findings divulged that on average, both men and women were participating in about 24 minutes less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. Concurrently, sedentary periods increased by approximately 33 minutes daily for men and 38 minutes for women.
Encouragingly, those who had initially demonstrated more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and less sedentary time displayed a higher quality of life in the follow-up assessment. Specifically, an additional active hour per day corresponded to a 0.02 higher quality of life score. Contrarily, for every minute of diminished moderate-to-vigorous physical activity recorded six years after the initial assessment, quality of life scores decreased by 0.03. This means that if an individual was engaging in 15 fewer minutes of such activity daily, their score would decrease by a substantial 0.45.
Furthermore, increases in sedentary behavior were likewise linked to a decreased quality of life. An increase of just one minute in daily sedentary time led to a drop in the score of 0.012 six years after the initial measurement. Hence, an individual spending an extra 15 minutes per day in sedentary behavior could expect their score to decrease by 0.18.
For context, a 0.1 point improvement in quality of life scores is linked with a 6.9% decrease in early death and a 4.2% reduction in the risk of hospitalization.
Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge emphasizes the significance of maintaining physical activity and minimizing sedentary periods. This principle is crucial at all stages of life but particularly in the later years when it can substantially enhance the quality of life and overall wellbeing.
The team’s assessment of physical activity and sedentary behavior at distinct time intervals lends credence to the causality of the results. That is, the evidence points towards an improved quality of life resulting directly from increased physical activity.
Dr. Yerrakalva further elaborates that improving physical behaviors can uphold a superior quality of life in several ways. Regular physical activity can alleviate pain from prevalent conditions such as osteoarthritis and augment muscle strength, thus enabling older adults to maintain their independence. Furthermore, physical activity can help mitigate depression and anxiety, both of which significantly impact quality of life.
In conclusion, the findings underscore the need for encouraging and maintaining an active lifestyle in older adults. By simply moving more and sitting less, we can create a positive impact on our health, reducing the risks of various diseases and enhancing our overall quality of life.