Lessen risk of stroke with daily chores
MOWING the lawn or washing the car are some simple activities that can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by almost 30 per cent in people over 60, researchers said yesterday.
A study in Sweden found that older people who were physically active around the house stayed healthier longer than couch potatoes - regardless of whether they did any kind of "formal" exercise like jogging or going to the gym.
"A generally active daily life was, regardless of regular exercise, associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults," said the study in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine.
While the health risks of prolonged sitting and the benefits of regular exercise have both been well documented, the contribution to good health of "non-exercise physical activity (Nepa)" is not fully understood.
For the study, researchers screened nearly 4,000 Swedish 60-year-olds from 1997 to 1999 and tracked their health for an average of 12.5 years.
The participants recorded how frequently they performed certain activities, such as doing home repairs, cutting the lawn, car maintenance, fishing, cycling and gathering berries.
The researchers found that people with high levels of physical activity, excluding formal exercise, had a 27 per cent lower risk of contracting cardiovascular disease, compared with inactive people, and a 30 per cent lower risk of death from all causes during the study period.
The results were "not significantly different" from those for people who did regular formal exercise, but had low Nepa levels. Those who did both had the lowest risk.
Promoting everyday Nepa might be as important as recommending regular exercise for older adults - boosting individual and population health as the demographic shifts towards an ever-older population in many parts of the world.
The researchers took into account lifestyle factors that could influence the results, including alcohol intake, education level, smoking habits and diet.
They also warned that care should be taken when applying the findings in cultures that may have different physical activity habits and levels.