Fitness / 11 November 2019, 1:30pm / ELEANOR HAYWARD
London - Giving up exercise as you get older significantly increases the risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack, a study has found.
Scientists analysed the health of more than 1.1 million over-60s and found that those who cut down on physical activity as they age increase their risk of heart disease by 27 percent.
But those who took up exercise as they got older reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 11 percent.
Experts said the findings show the importance of keeping active in old age to protect the heart, even with moderate activity such as gardening or walking.
The study participants, all from South Korea, each had two health checks provided by their national health service, the first in 2009/10 and the second in 2011/12. At each health check they were asked how much exercise they did every week and researchers analysed how their habits had changed.
The researchers later compared this to data on heart attacks, strokes and other forms of heart disease suffered by the participants between 2013 and 2016.
The study, published today in the European Heart Journal, found that people who stopped exercising having previously been very active had a 27 percent increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
Those who moved from being continuously inactive to moderately or vigorously active three times a week had an 11 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
Study author Kyuwoong Kim, from Seoul National University, said: "The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease.
"Globally, this finding is of public health importance because the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total two billion by 2050, which is an increase from 900 million in 2015.
"While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, our research suggests that it is necessary to be more physically active for cardiovascular health."
Philippa Hobson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Making healthy lifestyle changes as early as possible gives you the biggest health benefits, but taking action later in life still has a positive impact.
"If you are new to exercise, check with your doctor. It doesn’t have to be vigorous – even a brisk walk will do you good."