Mowing the lawn or washing
the car are among simple activities that can reduce the risk of heart attack or
stroke by almost 30% in people over 60, researchers said.
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 also did any kind of
"formal" exercise like jogging or going to the gym.
"A generally active
daily life was, regardless of exercising regularly or not, 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 4000 Swedish 60-year-olds in 1997-99 and tracked their health
for an average 12.5 years.
The participants recorded
how frequently they performed certain activities, including doing home repairs,
cutting the lawn or hedge, car maintenance, going hunting or fishing, cycling,
and gathering mushrooms or berries.
Excluding formal exercise
The researchers found that
people with high levels of physical activity, excluding formal exercise, had a
27% lower risk of contracting cardiovascular disease compared with inactive
people, and a 30% lower risk of death from all causes during the study period.
The results were "not
significantly different" from those for people who did do regular formal
exercise but had low NEPA levels, the study said.
Those who did both had the
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 study
The researchers factored in
other lifestyle factors that could influence the results, including alcohol
intake, education level, smoking habits and diet.
And they warned that care
should be taken applying the findings in cultures that may have different
physical activity habits and levels.