Tuesday August 28,2012
By Jo Willey
A GENTLE stroll every day could save your life by protecting against a host of chronic killer diseases, experts say.
Just a little light exercise can stave off heart failure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s.
And it is never too late to start. Stepping up exercise in your 50s can have major long-term benefits, the study found.
People who increased their fitness by just 20 per cent in middle age lowered their chances of developing the chronic diseases even decades later by 20 per cent.
In fact, introducing a gentle walk, housework, gardening or DIY into your daily routine from the age of 50 can slash the risk of developing these deadly illnesses at 65.
Dr Jarett Berry, a senior author of the study, said: “We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable, but it is actually lowering the onset of chronic disease in the final years of life.”
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We’ve determined that being fit is not just delaying the inevitable
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Researchers assessed the fitness levels of people in midlife and then followed them up 26 years later. The people who were fittest originally went on to have the lowest incidence of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, Texas, studied data of 14,726 healthy men and 3,944 healthy woman with an average age of 49 who were enrolled in the Cooper Centre Longitudinal Study, which contains more than 250,000 medical records from over 40 years.
Then they examined the patients’ Medicare health claims from aged 70 to 85 and looked for evidence of eight chronic conditions – heart failure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon or lung cancer.
Patients with the highest level of midlife fitness had a lower incidence of the chronic conditions compared with the people with the lowest midlife fitness.
The researchers, whose study is published online in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, measured fitness in Mets, short for metabolic equivalent of task, a measure of energy expenditure.
Walking the dog is rated between three and six Mets, running is six or higher. The authors wrote: “A one to two Met improvement in fitness at 50 was associated with a 20 per cent reduction in the incidence of chronic conditions at 65 and older.
“Those with higher midlife fitness appeared to spend a greater proportion of their final five years of life with a lower burden of chronic conditions.”
June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s never too late to get active, and 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week will help to keep your heart healthy.”
Research earlier this month showed that two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity a week helps suppress inflammation which is believed to contribute to heart disease.
This was my first testing walk after a month's lay-off and as a result I was trailing at the back and thereby got the opportunity to take this striking image.
As part of the walk on Tuesday April 20th, 2011 we decided to check whether the Public Right of Way path that runs from Alrewas along the canal on the opposite side of the towpath was passable. The attached map clearly shows the path (although the poor definition of the image suggests that it wanders into the canal a couple of times!).
This image is from the so-called definitive map of Staffordshire. The law on this is quite clear:
The Countryside Act of 1949 made it a statutory responsibility of County Councils to draw up and maintain a definitive map of the rights of way in their area.
If a route is recorded on the Definitive Map that is conclusive evidence in law of status, position and existence of the Public Right of Way. It does not follow, however, that a route not recorded on the map is proof that right of way does not exist as there maybe unrecorded public rights of way in existence whose legal status can only be determined by evidence.
As we approached the Happy Hens smallholding, the undergrowth made it difficult to make progress and the owner informed us that 'while we had no right of way, she said that as we had come so far, she offered to let us take the easier route over her land'. We accepted the offer but challenged her about the right of way as we had been in touch a few years ago with Staffordshire County Council and arranged for them to clear the path. I also explained that I had personally examined the definitive map and quoted the law behind it. She continued to maintain that her deeds showed there was no right of way and we agreed to exchange evidence.
The lady was so confident that her deeds were correct that I can imagine she would deter most people from using the path again. This is how we lose rights of way and I recommend that you use the definitive map to familiarise yourselves with the status of your favourite paths.
The definitive map for Staffordshire is on the internet but it isn't easy to find so make a note of the following url:
The map has a number of interesting layers, one of which is Public Rights of Way. To use the layers, click on View Map Layers in the top left corner, scroll down to the section on Leisure & Culture and highlight Public Rights of Way. Then click on the Display on Map arrow below the selection box. You may need to zoom in to the area of interest (click magnifying glass button on top right and draw an outline on the map over your area of interest) to see the paths highlighted as bold broken black lines.
You can make a mark on the map and report any issues to the County Council - broken stiles, potholes, etc. by using the Report It menu option along the top line of the map. I have used this feature to report the incident (and need for clearing the path of undergrowth) to the County Council.
I have also printed out a copy for Happy Hens and will pass it on to them.
Older people who walk quickly can expect to live longer than those who walk slowly
THE GIST OF IT
- Your most comfortable walking speed reflects the health of many organ systems.
- Being a slow walker does not doom you to an early death. Nor does it help to walk at a faster pace than you're comfortable going.
- Staying active as you age can help all around.
Older people who walk quickly tend to live longer than those who slow way down as they age, found a new study.
The findings do not mean that slow walkers are doomed to die early, the researchers warn. Nor will intentionally pushing yourself to hustle keep you young.
Instead, the study suggests that, like blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the pace that you feel comfortable walking at can be a simple sign of your overall health.
In turn, a simple walking test could help doctors and patients make decisions about when to perform certain screening tests -- and when not to.
"We are not saying that if you just go out and walk faster, you will live longer. Absolutely not," said Stephanie Studenski, a geriatrician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and at the Veteran Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System. "We are saying your body selects a walking speed that is best for you based on the health of all your body systems."
"The best way to live as long and well as you can is to be in the best health you can be," she added. "Walking speed might help you reflect or monitor how healthy you are."
There has long been a sense that slowing down is an ominous sign of aging, and not just in people. As pets get older, they may need more rest stops during their morning walks. Even C. elegans worms that wiggle slowly die sooner than worms of the same age that wiggle more quickly.
"Whether you're conscious of it or not, you may feel like grandpa's doing pretty good because he's got a spring in his step, he's out moving around, and he looks lively. But I'm worried about Aunt Mary because she's slowing down a lot," Studenski said. "The observation that there's something about how well you move that reflects health is almost implicit in human experience."
To test that notion, Studenski and colleagues gathered data from nine large, long-term aging studies that included a total of nearly 35,000 people, ages 65 and up. Each study had collected walking speed measurements and survival rates dating back between six and 21 years.
Next to age and gender, the study found, the time it took a person to walk comfortably down a hall for a few yards was one of the best predictors of whether he or she would be alive five or 10 years later.
In fact, the researchers report today in the Journal of the American Medical Association that walking speed was as good at predicting lifespan -- if not better -- as were more complicated measurements, such as blood pressure, weight, smoking status and markers of heart disease and diabetes.
Based on the data, the researchers created a chart, much like a growth curve, which estimated life expectancy based on a person's age, gender and walking speed.
They found that people who normally ambled at about 2.2 miles per hour (extrapolated from a measured speed of 0.8 meters per second) tended to live the average amount of time expected for someone their age. For every 0.1 meters per second faster they chugged along, their chances of dying in the next decade dropped by 12 percent.
A 70-year-old man, for example, could expect to live anywhere from seven to 23 years. A 70-year-old woman would likely to live another 10 to 30 years. The faster they walked, the more likely they were to land on the longer-living end of the spectrum.
The reason walking speed is such a good predictor of mortality, Studenski suspects, is that so many organ systems are involved in how quickly we move, including the heart, lungs, blood, brain, nervous system, muscles, joints and bones. Still, she warned, the study is based on statistics and chances, and there are bound to be outliers: Slow-walkers who live a long time and fast-walkers who die early.
Given the strong relationship found between walking speed and mortality, the study offers a useful tool for doctors as they help older patients make health-care decisions, said Seth Landefeld, director of the University of California, San Francisco -- Mt. Zion Center on Aging.
Screening tests for cancers and heart disease, for example, are only helpful in people who are going to live for another five or 10 years, he said. A simple walking test could help determine whether it's worth doing those tests or taking other preventative measures. Walking speed can also be a good way to start conversations about expectations for the final years or decades of life.
Everyone slows down as they age, Landefeld added. But there are things people can do to slow down less.
"There is a lot of evidence that people who keep up physical activity as well as social activity do much better in all sorts of ways," he said. "They live longer. They have better health. Their mental health stays sharper. I would say this article reinforces the use-it-or-lose it message. If you keep walking and moving around, that will likely have benefits in terms of survival and overall health."
The site is under construction and will initially record the activities of Alrewas Village Walkers who meet every Tuesday morning - come rain or shine - at 1045 AM in the car park of the George & Dragon pub roughly opposite the War Memorial.
We have a devised variety of walks, usually between 5-7 miles, that take in the canal towpaths and surrounding countryside. The walks usually take around 2 hours but we do try to include a 'short walk' for those that fancy a walk of 45-60 minutes.
After the walk, most of us gather in the pub for an inexpensive light snack and a drink or two.