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Nearly 10 percent of deaths caused by inactivity

July 18, 2012

Older adults have made staying active a part of healthy senior living, and results of a new study show just how good of an idea that is. A team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found physical inactivity is responsible for about one in 10 deaths worldwide.

The team arrived at their results after looking at data from a series of other studies. They found that not getting enough exercise was tied to much more that putting on a few pounds. Specifically, the researchers noticed a lack of physical activity was responsible for anywhere between 6 and 10 percent of cases of heart disease, breast cancer and colon cancer.

"With elimination of physical inactivity, life expectancy of the world's population might be expected to increase by 0.68 years," the authors wrote. "These findings make inactivity similar to the established risk factors of smoking and obesity."

The findings mesh with recent results that found even moderate physical activity is tied to a reduced risk of breast cancer. While women who exercised between 10 and 19 hours a week had the greatest reduction of about 30 percent, any level of intensity yielded positive benefits.

For adults over 65, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Luckily, there are many beneficial exercises for seniors that are also easy on older joints. Activities such as walking, low-impact aerobics or water exercise are all popular options.

Aside from lowering the risk of many life-threatening illnesses, regular physical activity can also make retirement more enjoyable. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, staying active is one of the best ways to avoid falls later in life.