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Physical activity outweighs healthy weight in old age

Overweight elderly people benefit more from exercise than from having a healthy weight. Sufficient physical activity alone can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This is the conclusion made by Erasmus MC researchers based on data from the Rotterdam Study. They have published their results in the scientific journal the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Senior_met_gieter_in_kas-grIt is already known that overweight and obesity increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and most people are therefore advised to lose weight. "But for over 65s this is somewhat different. Our study shows that physical activity is more important than a healthy weight for the elderly when related to the risk of cardiovascular diseases", says Chantal Koolhaas of Erasmus MC's department of  Epidemiology.

"Even the elderly with a healthy weight can reduce the risk by enough daily exercise. It does not even need to be intensive exercise, but daily activities such as cycling, walking, or gardening are enough."

The researchers monitored more than 5,000 older people with an average age of 70 years for a period of 15 years. "We found that in people with overweight the risk of a heart attack or stroke disappears as soon as they exercise for about four hours per day. One in three of the elderly overweight people who exercised about two hours per day became ill."

The researchers emphasize that these conclusions do not necessarily apply to other age groups. The article can be found on the website of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Date published: 3 March 2017.

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