The analysis by Oslo University Hospital of over 5,700 elderly men in Norway showed those doing 3 hours of exercise a week lived around 5 years longer than the sedentary.
Those putting in the equivalent of six, 30-minute sessions of any intensity, were 40% less likely to have died during the 11-year study and that physical activity was as "beneficial as smoking cessation" at reducing death.
The authors, writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, called for campaigns to encourage fitness in older people.
The study comes as the British Heart Foundation published a report warning people are getting too little exercise. Official advice in the UK recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week in the over-65s.
Its analysis shows that the percentage of adults doing no moderate exercise is:
- 69% in Portugal
- 55% in Poland
- 46% in France
- 44% in the UK
- 26% in Germany
- with Netherlands doing relatively well at 14%
"Regular physical activity, whatever your age, is beneficial for your heart health and ultimately can help you live longer. However, our latest statistics show that nearly half of people in the UK do no moderate exercise whatsoever - a rate higher than many European countries. Our message is that every 10 minutes counts and that making simple, more active changes to your daily routine can set you on a path to improved heart health."
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Read our other related articles:
You're never too old to be active
Can Exercise help us live longer?
50 Reasons to Exercise
An extended article can be found here.