Well-Being Longevity

Just 20 minutes of daily exercise at 70 could stave off major heart disease: study

Story at a glance

  • Moderate to vigorous exercise may be the best way to delay major heart disease in adults between the ages of 70 and 75.
  • The study looked at 3,099 Italians aged 65 years and older from 1995 to 1997.
  • Their health was then tracked through hospital discharge records and death certificates through the end of 2018 with 2,754 participants included in the final analysis.

Moderate to vigorous exercise may be the best way to delay major heart disease in adults between the ages of 70 and 75, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the online journal Heart used data from Progetto Veneto Anziani (ProVA), a study of 2,754 Italians aged 65 years and older from 1995 to 1997. Participants detailed medical history, physical examination, scans and numerous blood tests in the researchers’ initial assessments. Further evaluations were carried out four and seven years later.  

A participant’s physical activity was gauged through a questionnaire during each evaluation period, with those whose physical activity exceeding 20 minutes defined as active. Additional information including household income, educational attainment, number of household members, as well as drinking and smoking habits.  

Researchers found that most participants’ activity levels were stable over time.  

The participants’ health was then tracked through hospital discharge records and death certificates through the end of 2018, with 2,754 participants included in the final analysis. More than 1,000 new diagnoses of heart disease, heart failure, and stroke were made during the monitoring period.  

Both an increase in physical activity and an active lifestyle were associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death in both men and women. The study found the greatest reduction in risk was observed for new cases of coronary heart disease and heart failure in old age.  


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Older active adults achieved the greatest benefits at the age of 70, the study suggests, and data showed 20 to 40 minutes of daily physical activity led to the greatest decrease in heart disease and heart failure. 

The study’s limitations include its reliance on participant recall, a subjective assessment of activity levels, and a lack of data evaluating a particular participant’s level of fitness earlier in their life.  

Yet they concluded the “results suggest that public health policies should be targeted at promoting or beginning physical activity in mid- and early late life, given a probable greater effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risks.”  

“At least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day should be recommended to achieve the greatest cardiovascular benefits.” 


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