Exercise benefits for elderly men
Regular exercise has equal health benefits to quitting smoking in elderly men, research has found.
A study carried out in Norway found that carrying out half an hour of exercise six times a week was linked to a 40% lower risk of death in elderly males.
Even if the degree of activity was only light, mortality risk was lower than that of sedentary participants, and men who exercised lived up to five years longer than those who did not.
The research involving 6,000 men found carrying out less than an hour of light activity a week did not significantly lower the risk, but if the exercise was vigorous it could be reduced by as much as 37%.
The study authors suggested public health strategies and campaigns aimed at the elderly should target physical activity to the same extent as smoking, while doctors should emphasise to their patients the wide range of health problems that could be prevented by exercise.
They found the group that lowered their risk the most - by as much as 49% - carried out the most vigorous intensity activity.
When looking at the participants' smoking habits, researchers found that men who quit between the two screenings - which were more than 30 years apart - had up to 41% less risk of death than those who smoked at both points.
The research, carried out by the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences in Oslo, is published in the British Medical Journal.
"Even when men were 73 years of age on average at start of follow-up, active persons had five years longer expected lifetime than the sedentary," the study authors said.
"Increased physical activity was as beneficial as smoking cessation in reducing all-cause mortality.
"More time and resources should be allocated in primary care to increase the degree of physical activity among the elderly.
"Equally more time and resources should be used to advice on smoking cessation as well as increased degree of physical activity in the elderly."