Light Activity Can Boost Seniors' Health


Researchers suggest 300 minutes of weekly activities such as walking or gardening.

Regular light exercise can be as good for seniors as moderate or vigorous exercise, according to a study from Oregon State University.

Moderate-intensity physical activity has been shown to be good for your health. But, this study suggests that seniors should also be encouraged to engage in lower-intensity activity whenever they can, study lead author Paul Loprinzi, an assistant professor of exercise science and health promotion at the University of Mississippi, suggested in a news release from Oregon State University. Loprinzi was at Oregon State University at the time of the study.

"For example, instead of talking on the phone in a seated position, walking while talking will help increase our overall physical activity level," he added.

For the study, researchers reviewed information from a U.S. national survey done between 2003 and 2006. They found that high amounts of low-intensity workouts provided significant benefits for people older than 65.

Light activity includes things such as walking, slow dancing, household chores and leisurely sports such as table tennis. Seniors who did 300 minutes or more per week of light activity were 18 percent healthier than seniors who didn't. They also had less body fat and smaller waists than their less active peers.

The researchers also found that the people getting 300 or more minutes of light activity also had better insulin levels, and a lower risk for chronic disease.

The study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

There are 168 hours in a week, the study's co-author Brad Cardinal, a professor at Oregon State University, pointed out in the university news release. That means 300 minutes is about 3 percent of that time, he noted.

"You get a nice array of health benefits by doing five hours of light physical activity per week," Cardinal said.

Light exercise tends to be more appealing to seniors and typically does not require a doctor's approval, Cardinal added.

A Summary from the Department of Health and Human Services is as follows:


  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

SOURCE: Oregon State University, news release, June 10, 2015, updated 2019

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