New U.K. research has found engaging in exercise during early old age, a period when we may become more sedentary as we transition from work to retirement, could help reduce the risk of heart disease.
The study, by researchers at the University of Bristol, looked at 1,622 participants aged 60 to 64 years, who were asked to wear heart rate and movement sensors for five days.
The sensors measured how much physical activity the participants did as well as the intensity, from light physical activity such as slow walking, stretching, golfing or gardening, to moderate-to-vigorous activity such as brisk walking, bicycling, dancing, tennis, or vacuuming.
Participants also provided blood samples which the researchers analyzed for biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, including inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin 6 (IL-6); endothelial markers tissue-plasminogen activator (t-PA), the molecule E-Selectin (a molecule that plays an important part in inflammation); and cholesterol markers leptin and adiponectin.
The results showed that less sedentary time and more time spent doing low-intensity activity were associated with reduced levels of IL-6 and t-PA, regardless of how much time was spent doing higher-intensity activity.
For every additional 10 minutes spent sedentary, there was a 0.6 percent increase in IL-6 levels in men and 1.4 percent increase in IL-6 levels in women, and for every additional 10 minutes spent in light-intensity activity, a 0.8 percent decrease in t-PA levels in both men and women.
In addition, for each additional 10 minutes spent in moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, leptin levels were 3.7 percent lower in men and 6.6 percent lower in women.
E-selectin was the only biomarker which showed no significant associations with physical activity and sedentary time.
The team noted that the study is one of the first to investigate associations between physical activity and sedentary time and a wide range of cardiovascular biomarkers in older age. The findings were consistent with other studies that have also looked at some of these biomarkers.
“We focused on these atherosclerosis biomarkers as they are less studied and have been shown to predict risk of cardiovascular events and death,” said study author Ahmed Elhakeem, Ph.D.
Based on the findings, the team suggested that physical activity may lower cardiovascular disease risk by improving blood vessel function.
“The 60 to 64 age range represents an important transition between work and retirement, when lifestyle behaviors tend to change,” said Elhakeem. “It may, therefore, be an opportunity to promote increased physical activity. We found it’s important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity.”
The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
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