Physical activity can increase your lifespan no matter what your age and past activity levels

A new study from the University of Cambridge has highlighted the benefits of maintaining or increasing activity in later life, and showing that it’s never too late to become more active when it comes to benefitting our health. The study followed 14,599 men and women from Norfolk, aged 40 to 79, for an average of 12.5 years. It assessed their change in activity levels over time, and how this is associated with mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In 2016 the mortality rate was determined, with 3148 deaths occurring in total, 950 from cardiovascular disease and 1091 from cancer. The study discovered that in middle to older aged adults, there is substantial longevity benefits in becoming more physically active. Notably, this benefit was independent of other risk factors and people gained the benefits of increased physical activity whether they were active at the start of the study or not. This evidences that it really never is too late to take our health into our own hands and feel the benefits of increased physical activity.

This relationship between increased activity and reduction in risk of mortality was also seen in middle to older aged adults with cardiovascular disease or cancer, proving that physical activity is a powerful medicine for disease and can help extend peoples’ lives. At KiActiv®, we recognise the powers of physical activity for preventing and treatment of disease. We understand that physical activity plays a huge role in, not only increasing the quantity of life, but the quality too, and we aim to empower all people to take responsibility for their own health through increased physical activity.

Additionally, the study concluded that even those people who started with medium to high physical activity levels and maintained their activity had a reduced risk of mortality. This signifies that, going forward, preventing a decline in physical activity in mid to later life is a must. At KiActiv® we promote this through the message that every movement matters, shifting the focus from exercise/training to ALL the different types of activity we do as part of our everyday lives.

Maybe we won’t do the same types of activity we did 10 years ago. Perhaps, we won’t do the same types of activity as the person living across the street. But that’s okay! Physical activity has no limits and there is no right or wrong way. The key is to find out what activities count and work for us, whether that’s optimising activities we already enjoy or finding new, enjoyable ones, or both. The possibilities are endless! And the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to keep it up. This helps ensure our activity levels are maintained or better yet, improved, whatever stage of life we are at, as this study has proven to be essential. Physical activity is already helping people everywhere to live longer, healthier and happier lives, and it can do the same for all of us.

Everyday physical activity is a powerful medicine for older adults with heart disease

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association, published in the peer-reviewed journal Circulation, champions everyday physical activity for older adults with heart disease.

Simply by improving their everyday physical activity, older adults with heart disease can experience benefits to their heart health, as well as greater independence and quality of life, even in the oldest adults.

The evidence to support physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle is overwhelming. It can reduce heart disease symptoms in patients with heart failure, heart attacks and strokes, in addition to improving the age-related decline in strength and balance, and reducing frailty (unintentional weight loss, exhaustion, slowness while walking, and low levels of physical activity).

“Many healthcare providers are focused only on the medical management of diseases, such as heart failure, heart attacks, valvular heart disease and strokes, without directly focusing on helping the patients maximise their physical function,” said Daniel Forman, M.D., the geriatric cardiologist who chaired the panel that drafted the new statement.

“Yet, after a heart attack or other cardiac event, most patients also want to regain physical capacity and confidence to maintain their independence and quality of life, such as the ability to lift a grocery bag and carry it to their car,” Forman said.

The new statement urges healthcare professionals to assess functional status at every regular physical exam, and details an array of methods they can use. And, as well as emphasising cardiac rehabilitation (of which physical activity is a vital part) when it’s appropriate, the statement calls for healthcare professionals to provide individualised guidance for improving daily physical activity. A viewpoint that’s echoed by the Exercise is Medicine initiative and one we fully support. Physical activity has to be part of the conversation.

Every move you make matters and it’s not only about walking or cycling – climbing the stairs, making the bed, putting out the washing, gardening, and washing the windows all count. Structured exercise is just one of many different types of physical activity that have independent health benefits. And, let’s face it, exercise doesn’t appeal to everyone – in fact, it can be really daunting for many of us. Not only could encouraging everyday activities better achieve healthful physical activity behaviour in older adults, it is likely to be more meaningful, motivating and sustainable.

KiActiv® establishes the use of everyday ‘free living’ physical activity for the prevention and treatment of lifestyle diseases. Those who use KiActiv® learn how to make their every move valuable and are empowered to becoming their own expert in what’s right for them. This knowledge and understanding gives them control over their health and wellbeing forever. Our personalised behavioural medicine is natural, safe and accessible to everyone.

Physical Activity – The Miracle Drug

Physical activity is great for our health. We keep hearing this mantra, the evidence is overwhelming and yet we are in the midst of an inactivity epidemic!

A vast number of people are suffering from preventable conditions and, most of the time and in most cases, are being treated with drugs that don’t work well. In many cases, providing an effective physical activity intervention could reduce or remove the need for these drugs, their negative side effects and their price tag.

Dr Chris van Tulleken has decided enough is enough and taken to BBC prime time TV to have his say.

As anyone who watched The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs will know, Dr Chris van Tulleken worked with patients in a GP surgery in east London to offer drug-free treatments instead of their prescriptions. He prescribed physical activity with some astonishing results.

Thousands of patients at the surgery were taking drugs to reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke and as part of his experiment he began working with a group who wanted to stop. They were prescribed a 30-minute brisk walk, five times a week for eight weeks. Those who adhered improved their blood sugar levels more than would be expected when taking a new drug (much to the surprise of the initially skeptical nurse). They also had massively improved moods, better sleep and reduced aches. The surgery continues to supports the walking group (the number of patients in the group is growing) and the patients in the original walking group have stayed off their statins. The programme also documents the success achieved by patients suffering from depression and chronic pain, who were weaned off their drugs with the help of different physical activity interventions.

Prior to establishing the walking group Dr van Tulleken clearly identified that, in the current health system, exercise is just something that people are told to do. This paternalistic view is ineffective, but even in a supported walking programme there are still limitations. Whilst patient adherence to the programme was not mentioned, motivation and engagement was shown to be an issue and the human resource needed to remedy this is not insignificant. Health care professionals simply don’t have enough time to engage, motivate and empower every patient. Let’s not forget that there were thousands of others at the surgery who could have benefited from a physical activity intervention and multiples of that across the country. What if there was a clinically proven and scalable programme for delivering sustainable physical activity behaviour change – wouldn’t that be great? One that provided digital support, encouraged family participation, and appealed to people with no interest in exercise – even better.

It is important to also understand that walking, be it in a group or on your own, isn’t the only type of activity that benefits health – there are different ways to harness the benefits of physical activity because it has multiple independent biologically-important dimensions. Focusing on one dimension alone, like walking, creates a danger of developing a false picture of activity. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv® system are crucial for the accurate evaluation of an individual’s physical activity and the creation of bespoke strategies for successful change. Through this we have evidenced an enhanced understanding and inspired confidence to change and optimise individuals’ physical activity for a longer, healthier life.

We share Dr Chris van Tulleken’s vision for a health service, rather than “prescription service”, which can offer effective lifestyle solutions alongside or instead of drugs. The power of physical activity is there for everyone to see, and through our years of R&D we’ve developed a programme that can be prescribed just like a drug to prevent and treat a number of chronic diseases. KiActiv® programmes combine the latest technologies with cutting edge academic understanding to empower self-management and support self-endorsed lifestyle change. This not only moves us away from paternalistic healthcare, away from the culture of telling or compelling, but by getting people to take responsibility for their health and lowering the burden on GPs, emergency care and hospitals we can also have a huge impact on the costs.

Physical activity for life

This blog was inspired by a British Journal of Sports Medicine blog I read last week. Click here for the link – it’s worth reading. In that blog, Nash Anderson, told of this fantastic statement he’d heard from a patient:

People ask me why I go to the gym all the time. They ask me what I am training for. I am training for life!”

Anyone who’s read any of our blogs before will know how much this resonates with us and how closely aligned this is the way we think. Physical activity is behavioural medicine for the prevention and treatment of disease.

We too would love to see the emphasis shift towards the long-term health benefits of physical activity, only we would take it a step further and also move the focus from exercise and training to the all the different types of activity we do as part of our lives.

Physical activity has multiple dimensions that we can take advantage of to gain the numerous health benefits associated with being active – it’s not just exercise. In fact, many people really dislike exercise – that’s why they don’t do it! But, not all physical activity is exercise. The key is to find out what “counts” for us – it is likely we are all already doing something – we just need to find out what it is for us. Once we know what counts, each of us can choose what we want to do to optimise our physical activity – we can choose the activities we enjoy, then we’re more likely to keep doing them.

For some, it might be a weekly spinning class or 18-holes of golf, for others it’s walking the dog or going shopping. There’s no right or wrong way – there are many different ways to harness all of its protective properties because it has many dimensions, each known to have clear biological and health benefits. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv® system, created by our partners at the University of Bath, motivate, engage and enhance understanding to empower you to change your physical activity so you can enjoy a longer, healthier life.

Physical Activity is the most important weapon in the fight against obesity

Have you resolved to lose weight in 2016? Make sure physical activity is included in your plan.

Weight loss can be a minefield, with the supposedly expert opinion on the “best” diet to shed the pounds changing on an almost daily basis. In fact, the most effective diet to follow is one you can stick with. And, whilst calorie intake is obviously important in weight management, new research suggests that calorie counting isn’t the key to fighting obesity – Physical Activity is.

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada found that leading a physically active lifestyle can blunt the genetic effects of FTO – a major contributor to obesity – by up to 75%.

Participants were asked how long they spent doing 41 different types of physical activity. Importantly, free-living activities like gardening, taking the stairs and walking around the office were included in the list alongside more traditional structured exercise like strength training, cycling and team sports.

So, whether your goal is to lose weight or keep healthy, physical activity is the key. The important thing is to discover what activity “counts” for you. Then the choice is yours – you can decide how you want to be active. Chances are you’re already doing at least one thing every day that counts as activity – for some people it’s walking the dog or to the corner shop to buy the morning paper, for others it’s a game of squash or a Zumba class, it might even be something that seems small and insignificant like taking the stairs.

Whatever you choose, make physical activity part of your lifestyle to improve your health in 2016 and for many more years to come.

Get up every half an hour for your health

Sitting down all day is far too easy to do – sitting driving the car or on public transport, working at a computer, and watching TV make up the majority of the day for far too many of us. Even those of us who fit in 30-minutes of exercise and 8-hours sleep on most days tend to sit down the hours that are left.

All this sitting is damaging our health.

New research from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada has added to the growing body of evidence showing that the more we sit down, the more damage we are doing to our health. The researchers looked at the association between markers of health and sedentary time in 278 patients with coronary artery disease. All the patients had already been through a cardiac rehabilitation programme which aimed to teach them how to improve their physical activity levels in the long term. Despite learning how to lead an active lifestyle, on average the patients spent almost 8-hours a day sedentary – the more sedentary they were the higher their BMI and the lower their fitness, putting them at risk of another cardiac event.

These researchers suggested that everyone should get up and move every half an hour – reducing our sedentary time may be just as important as increasing activity, we need to do both.

Following this advice wouldn’t just reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Breaking sedentary time with 5-minutes of either walking or standing has recently been shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.

So, take the advice of the researchers and monitor your activity patterns to see when you’re sedentary for too long – then you can decide how to break your sedentary. It could be as simple as walking to get a small glass of water every half an hour (try going to the kitchen that’s furthest away from your desk) or standing up during the TV adverts.

Fitness in young adults predicts cardiovascular disease and death in later life

Physical activity is often thought of as no more than a method of weight management, but its benefits extend far beyond burning calories – it can add years to your life and life to those years, reducing the risk of numerous chronic diseases.

While physical activity has long been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in middle-aged and older adults, a new study offers fresh evidence that fitness in young adulthood provides protection against cardiovascular problems developing in the future.

As part of this large study, published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine, 4872 men and women aged between 18 and 30 years underwent a treadmill exercise test at baseline, which a sub-set of 2472 participants did again 7 years later. Median follow-up time was almost 27-years, during which the researchers monitored patients for obesity, hardening in the coronary arteries, heart muscle weakness, and incidents related to cardiovascular disease, such as strokes and heart attacks.

Every additional minute of baseline treadmill test duration was linked with a 15% lower risk of death and 12% lower risk of cardiovascular disease by the end of the follow-up period. Among those that did the second treadmill test, every 1-minute reduction in test duration was linked with a 20% increase in risk of cardiovascular events and 21% risk of death.

The fact that none of the other more traditional risk factors measured, including obesity, smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol didn’t change the outcome highlights the importance of thinking about physical activity as a mere tool for weight loss.

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Dr David Chiriboga and Dr Ira Ockene of the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote that “the findings offer a substantive confirmation of the importance of physical activity in cardiorespiratory fitness in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.” In further communication, Dr Ockene highlights the need for multidimensional physical activity, saying “I spend a lot of time talking to folks not just about literal exercise but also about the extraordinary value of day-today activity,” adding that we should “also understand the importance of limiting sedentary time”

The power of multidimensional physical activity as a diagnostic tool isn’t limited to cardiovascular diseases. In fact, physical activity is fundamental to the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, some cancers, osteoporosis, and dementia. Being physically active is the single best thing you can do for your health, now and in the future.

The KiActiv HealthCheck accurately evaluates the current physical activity of anyone in relation to their health, delivering a meaningful measure of individual physical activity levels and the associated future disease risks. By delivering actionable behavioural insights, the KiActiv HealthCheck can help improve your understanding of current health status and what you need to do to improve your health and lower disease risk.

Move more to improve your memory

We are pretty evangelical about the power of physical activity for preventing and treating the lifestyle diseases that plague modern society. And rightly so, there is so much scientific evidence in support of physical activity as a powerful medicine that we should all be taking.

A new study, published online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, has added to the growing evidence-base finding that staying physically active could improve our quality of life by prolonging an independent lifestyle and delaying cognitive decline as we get older.

The researchers from Boston University School of Medicine compared 29 young adults (ages 18-31) and 31 older adults (ages 55-82). All of the participants wore an accelerometer to objectively measure their daily physical activity, as well as completing neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning and problem-solving abilities.

The results showed that, older adults were more physically active had better memory performance. The researchers believe that these findings show that the positive effects of physical activity extend to improved long-term memory, which is the type of memory most negatively impacted by aging and neurodegenerative dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. Around 800,000 people in the UK are currently living with dementia and that number continues to increase. We can help stop this number growing simply by moving more each day.

Importantly, the authors point out that staying physically active can take a variety of forms from formal exercise programs to small changes, such as walking or taking the stairs. In other words, physical activity is multidimensional, we just need to find out what activities work for us. And that’s where KiActiv comes in, empowering you to optimise your physical activity using the activities that “count” for you.

Conflicting headlines just add to the confusion around Physical Activity

A simple question deserves a simple answer. Unfortunately, in the case of the amount of Physical Activity we should be doing to stay healthy, this is a difficult thing to do. This situation isn’t helped by the continued publication of confusing and conflicting headlines.

Let’s take the past week or so as an example; two headlines sat side-by-side in a popular online UK newspaper one telling us that 30-minutes of brisk walking five times a week is better than going to the gym for losing weight and the other saying that we should be doing double or even quadruple the recommended 150-minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise each week if we want to keep our hearts healthy. Putting aside the limitations of both studies for a moment, we can probably say that both of these headlines have an element of truth.

Confused?

Well, the first thing to do is to change the way you think about Physical Activity. Stop thinking only about the 30-minutes of exercise you do five times a week to meet the government guidelines, think instead about everything that makes you move. Physical Activity has many dimensions, each known to have clear biological and health benefits – from the amount of time you spend sedentary each day to your daily calorie burn, not forgetting the time you spend doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity each week. They all have a part to play in keeping you healthy.

Most research focuses on structured exercise, just like the report from The London School of Economics which was reported in a number of newspapers to show brisk walking is better than the gym for weight loss. The study didn’t actually compare the effects of the different types of activity directly, so we can’t say for sure which one was best or if one is truly better than the other. In fact, this was a cross-sectional study; it only looked at activity at one time point, so can’t make any conclusions about weight loss over time.

It will come as no surprise that people who did more activity of any kind had the lowest body mass index (BMI) and waist measurements. These effects were strongest in women and in people over the age of 50. Men who walked briskly for 30-minutes five days a week had a BMI on average one unit less than those who didn’t do this amount; the difference was 1.8 units for women. The equivalent amount of sport or exercise, heavy manual work, or heavy housework (for women only) were also linked with a lower BMI, it was just that the difference was smaller.

In fact, to get the most bang for your buck in terms of body weight, another recent study suggests we need to be active for at least 150-minutes a week and stand up for most of the day. The research published this month in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings showed that achieving this amount of activity gave some benefit, but standing up and being active gave additional benefit – the more time people spent standing the lower their odds of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

But remember, the outcome researchers are looking at is really important. These two studies both focused on measures of obesity, whereas the other study I mentioned earlier wanted to know about heart failure – two very different, although undeniably related outcomes (being overweight can increase your risk of heart problems). The amount of activity we need to do probably depends on what we are trying to achieve.

So, what should we do?

Simply put, we should sit less and move more. Research tells us that the more we move, the lower our risk of developing any number of preventable diseases. Importantly, it likely doesn’t matter what specific activity we choose to do, just as long as it increases our calorie burn at least three times our resting rate (i.e. is at least moderate-intensity for us). Chances are we are all doing at least one thing each day that meets this criterion – we just need to find out what that activity is for us – it could be anything from walking the dog or playing with the kids to 18-holes of golf or a Spinning class. We should also spend less time sitting or standing still – moving more will help with this.

The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv system, created by our partners at the University of Bath, enhance understanding and inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity to benefit your health – one size doesn’t fit all!

Does Physical Activity slow the aging process?

Almost any amount of Physical Activity may slow aging at a cellular level, and middle age may be a critical time to prevent your body from aging, at least according to one common measure of cell aging – telomere length.

Telomeres are combinations of DNA and protein that protect the ends of chromosomes and help them remain stable. As we get older telomeres fray and become shorter and our cells begin to age and die more quickly. Shorter telomeres have become associated with numerous aging-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, vascular dementia, and many forms of cancer. Recent science suggests that Physical Activity may slow the fraying of telomeres, helping to maintain telomere length and slow cell aging.

A new study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, looked at the interactions of Physical Activity and telomere length among 6503 American men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 84.

The researchers categorised the participants into four groups, based on how they had responded to questions about their Physical Activity. Participants scored a point if they had engaged in each of the following four types of Physical Activity in the past month: moderate-intensity activity, vigorous-intensity activity, muscle-strengthening activities, or walking or cycling for transport. The points tally was then compared to the participant’s telomere length.

For every point scored from any of the four types of Physical Activity, risk of having unusually short telomeres decreased significantly.

Specifically, participants who engaged in a single activity, earning them one point, were about 3% less likely to have short telomeres than someone who did no Physical Activity. Those who did two types of Physical Activity were 24% less likely to have short telomeres, three types were 29% less likely and those reporting four types of Physical Activity were 59% less likely to have short telomeres.

These associations were strongest amongst participants aged 40-65 years, suggesting middle age may be a key time to start or maintain a Physically Active lifestyle and maintain your telomere length.

Although this study doesn’t show that Physical Activity causes changes in telomere length, it does show us that people who are active do have longer telomeres than those who aren’t. It also can’t tell us exactly how much activity we need to do to maintain the length of our telomeres. But, the message is clear – Physical Activity is good for our cells and the more we do in greater variety is likely to be even better.

Physical Activity has many dimensions, each known to have clear biological and health benefits. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv system, created by our partners at the University of Bath, give you a unique insight into your body and your lifestyle. They enhance understanding and inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity, so you choose what types of Physical Activity you want to do to improve your health and even slow the aging process.