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Any physical activity in elderly better than none to reduce CV risk

Any physical activity in elderly better than none to reduce CV risk

Publication date: Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

An 18-year UK study in more than 24,000 subjects shows the benefits of exercise in elderly patients. The EPIC Norfolk prospective population study showed that any physical activity in the elderly is better than none at all for reducing cardiovascular risk.

First author Dr Sangeeta Lachman (Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam) said, “Current exercise recommendations to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) are based primarily on research in middle-aged adults and we wanted to know whether regular physical activity yields comparable CV health benefits in elderly people.”

The study included 24,502 adults who were recruited between 1993–1997 from GP practices in Norfolk. They completed a health and lifestyle questionnaire, had a physical examination and gave blood samples. Physical activity during work and leisure time was assessed with a questionnaire and participants were categorised as active, moderately active, moderately inactive and inactive. Patients were followed up until March 2015 for hospitalisation or death from CV events. Physical activity levels and time to cardiovascular events were investigated in people < 55 years, 55–65, and >65 years of age (elderly).

In elderly participants, hazard ratios for cardiovascular events were 0.86, 0.87, and 0.88 in moderately inactive, moderately active and active people, respectively, compared to inactive people. In both younger groups the associations were directionally similar, but not statistically significant. There was an inverse association between physical activity and the risk of CVD in both elderly and middle-aged people. As expected, there were more CV events in elderly participants, which could explain why the association only reached significance in this age category.”

Elderly people who were moderately inactive had a 14% reduced risk of CV events compared to those who were completely inactive. This suggests that even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health.


The study results suggest that elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening, and housework to benefit their CV health. Given the ageing population and the impact of CVD on society, a broader array of public health programmes are needed to help elderly people engage in any physical activity of any level and avoid being completely sedentary.

Lachman S, et al. Impact of physical activity on the risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults: EPIC Norfolk prospective population study. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 2017. DOI: 10.1177/2047487317737628

More information 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. European Heart Journal. 2016;37:2315–2381 doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehw106
Topics covered:
Category: Evidence in Practice
Edition: Volume 2, Number 12, BJPCN Online 2017
Contributor(s): Jeremy Bray

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