A recent study conducted by the University of Cambridge has revealed a significant connection between physical activity levels and the quality of life among adults aged 60 and above. The findings highlighted the importance of encouraging older adults to stay active and minimize sedentary behavior.

Engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity, which raises the heart rate, has been widely acknowledged to reduce the risk of various diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. The National Health Service (NHS) recommends that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. For older adults, it is also advised to break up prolonged periods of sitting with light activity or standing since this provides distinct health benefits.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge examined the activity levels of 1,433 participants aged sixty and above using accelerometers as part of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer)-Norfolk study. They also assessed health-related quality of life, encompassing aspects such as pain, self-care ability and mood/anxiety.

Participants completed a questionnaire, and their responses were used to assign a score ranging from 0 (worst quality of life) to 1 (best). Lower quality of life scores are associated with a higher risk of hospitalization, poorer outcomes after hospitalization and premature death.

Follow-up assessments conducted nearly six years later revealed that both men and women were engaging in approximately 24 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day on average. Concurrently, sedentary time increased by around 33 minutes for men and 38 minutes for women.

The study found that individuals who engaged in more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and spent less time sedentary during their initial assessment experienced higher quality of life scores in subsequent evaluations. An additional hour of active time per day was linked to a 0.02 higher quality of life score.

Furthermore, for every minute less of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured six years later, quality of life scores dropped by 0.03. This means that a person reducing their engagement in such activities by 15 minutes per day would experience a score decrease of 0.45.

Increases in sedentary behavior were also associated with lower quality of life scores. A one-minute daily increase in total sedentary time led to a score drop of 0.012 six years after the initial measurement. Consequently, someone spending an extra 15 minutes sitting per day would witness their score decrease by 0.18.

To provide context, previous research has shown that a 0.1 point improvement in quality of life scores correlates with a 6.9% reduction in early mortality and a 4.2% reduction in the risk of hospitalization, according to Medical Xpress.

Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva from the University of Cambridge emphasized the importance of staying active and reducing sedentary behavior at all stages of life, particularly in older adulthood. These lifestyle choices can significantly enhance both physical and mental well-being, leading to improvements in overall quality of life.

As the study measured physical activity and sedentary behavior at different time points, the researchers assert a causal link between maintaining higher activity levels and improved quality of life.

Dr. Yerrakalva further explained that improvements in physical behaviors can positively impact the quality of life in various ways. For instance, increased physical activity can alleviate pain in conditions like osteoarthritis, while improved muscle strength enables older adults to maintain their independence. Additionally, being more active and less sedentary can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, further enhancing the quality of life.