Move a Little and Gain a Lot

Retirees take note…. it doesn’t take that much

When the time comes to retire many older adults look forward to sitting back and watching life go by without all the pressures associated with a full time career.

Sadly many of these new retirees don’t get to enjoy their retirement as their bodies begin to break down through lack of use or a newly adopted sedentary lifestyle.

Older males are perhaps the worst in thinking that this newly adopted sedentary lifestyle will improve their quality of life and help them live longer.

As our society ages a greater disproportion of our older adults incur significant health care costs at ages 70 years +. Some of the reasons given for the increased health care costs include increased sedentary behaviour, obesity and cardiovascular disease.


Numerous studies have reported that the more this older aged group is engaged in physical activity the lower their risk of dying. Older women aged 70 years + were reported to experience a 32% lower risk of dying. The type of movement recommended included walking and other types of moderate-intensity activities.

A recent Swedish study examined 15,000 males born between 1923 and 1932 that had regular health checkups over 40 years (from when the original study was launched).

The survey was repeated in 2000 and again in 2011.

Initially, the researchers found that older men who performed 30 minutes of physical activity for 6 days per week had a 40% lower risk of dying when compared to their “couch potato” counterparts.

When the study was reviewed again in 2011 there were only 3,600 elderly males left of the original 15,000 subjects.

One of the most significant findings was the huge impact that small amounts of regular physical activity had on these now elderly men.

The researchers were amazed by the large impact that only a small amount of physical activity had on the overall health of these 70-80 years old men.

Typically a person in the 70 years + age group is unlikely to embark upon a fitness program if they have not previously attempted to get fit at other stages of their life.

The FITT principle has been the cornerstone of physical activity recommendations to improve the health of the older adult. While this information can’t be disputed there is a large component of energy expenditure in the lives of these older people that seems to be totally ignored.

Alternatively, older adults should be encouraged to increase their physical activity levels by spending more time on their feet and performing free-living activities such as household chores, gardening, active transport, active leisure etc in preference to a structured exercise program.

The message is that physical activity at any level as long as it is consistent can be a major influence on our health and longevity.

Remember that at this age it's never too late to start….and it doesn’t take a lot of work to reap some major benefits.