Physical fitness isn't the only activity to help prolong survival in older people

August 20, 1999

(Population based study of social and productive activities as predictors of survival among elderly Americans)

Social and productive activities, such as playing cards or shopping, are as effective as fitness activities in lowering the risk of all cause mortality in older people, claim researchers in this week's BMJ. Professor Thomas Glass, from Harvard University School of Public Health along with colleagues from Chicago and Conneticut, found that activities that required less physical exertion may complement exercise programmes or may be an alternative form of activity for frail elderly people.

Glass et al studied over 2,800 people aged over 65 years from New Haven, Conneticut, over a 13 year period and found that all three types of activity (social, fitness and productive) were independently associated with survival. They define social activities as including church going; playing cards, games or bingo; day trips and going to the cinema. Productive activities include gardening; preparing meals; shopping and community work.

The authors conclude that social and productive activities confer equivalent survival advantages compared with fitness activities. They say that this observation is important because it suggests that activities that entail little or no physical exertion may also be beneficial to older people.

Professor Thomas Glass, Assistant Professor, Harvard University School of Public Health, Department of Health and Social Behaviour, Boston, United States


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