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Exercise & Fitness for Senior Citizens

Physically Active Men Live Longer After Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease; Reduce Heart Failure

Most active older cancer survivors 38% less likely to die of cancer; 49% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease

Jan. 23, 2014 – Two new studies have found physical activity is very beneficial for older men. The results of one reports exercise it significantly extends the lives of senior cancer and cardiovascular disease survivors, and the other concludes it reduces heart failure risk.

The research released today in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health studied 1,021 senior men with an average age of 71. During the period while the men were followed, those who expended more than 12,600 calories per week in physical activity were 48 percent less likely to die of any cause than those who burned fewer than 2,100 calories per week.

In the second study, published earlier this week in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure, the researchers found that sitting for long periods increases heart failure risk in men (ages 45 to 69), even for those who exercise regularly.

Lives Extended for Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease Survivors

Many cancer survivors are living longer, due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment, and their numbers are increasing rapidly. "Thus physical activity should be actively promoted to such individuals to enhance longevity," researchers concluded.

 

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There has been extensive research showing that among generally healthy, cancer-free populations, physical activity extends longevity. But there has been relatively little such research on physical activity among cancer survivors.

Kathleen Y. Wolin, PhD, of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, is co-author of the study, published in the official journal of the International Society for Physical Activity and Health.

Researchers examined data from the Harvard Alumni Health Study, an ongoing study of men who entered Harvard as undergraduates between 1916 and 1950. Researchers looked at 1,021 men (average age 71) who previously had been diagnosed with cancer.

In questionnaires conducted in 1988, men reported their physical activities, including walking, stair-climbing and participation in sports and recreational activities. Their physical activities were updated in 1993, and the men were followed until 2008.

Compared with men who expended fewer than 2,100 calories per week in physical activity, men who expended more than 12,600 calories per week were 48 percent less likely to die of any cause during the follow-up period.

This finding was adjusted for age, smoking, body mass index, early parental mortality and dietary variables. (By comparison, a 176-pound man who walks briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week burns 4,200 calories.)

There were similar findings for mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease: the most physically active cancer survivors were 38 percent less likely to die of cancer and 49 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease during the follow-up period.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Exercise, Sitting Less Reduces Heart Failure Risk

Preventing heart failure, researchers found, requires a two-part behavioral approach: high levels of physical activity plus low levels of sedentary time. The study is the first to examine the link between heart failure risk and sedentary time, said Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., lead researcher and a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, Calif.

“Be more active and sit less. That’s the message here,” Young said.

Researchers followed a racially diverse group of 84,170 men ages 45 to 69 without heart failure. Exercise levels were calculated in METs, or metabolic equivalent of task, a measure of the body’s energy use. Sedentary levels were measured in hours.  After an average of nearly eight years of follow-up, researchers found:

>> Men with low levels of physical activity were 52 percent more likely to develop heart failure than men with high physical activity levels, even after adjusting for differences in sedentary time.

>> Outside of work, men who spent five or more hours a day sitting were 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than men who spent no more than two hours a day sitting, regardless of how much they exercised.

>> Heart failure risk more than doubled in men who sat for at least five hours a day and got little exercise compared to men who were very physically active and sat for two hours or less a day.

Study limitations: Since no women were studied the results may not apply to them; results were self-reported, which could mean physical activity was over reported; results were based only on time outside of work and can’t be applied to overall sedentary activity; and participants were members of comprehensive health plans, so results may not apply to men lacking health insurance.

The study supports the American Heart Association recommendation that people get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity to reduce their risk for heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, Young said.

 

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