Any physical activity can help seniors, study says

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A Swedish study indicates that for senior citizens, gardening, housecleaning, mowing the lawn and other nonexercise physical activity can be almost as beneficial to their health as regular exercise.

"This is especially important for a lot of our patients who can't do regular exercise," said Christine Herb, who specializes in geriatrics for the West Penn Allegheny Health System. "You can still remain healthy just by doing your regular daily activities."

The researchers tracked the health of 4,000 Swedish men and women who were age 60 in 1997, 1998 and 1999 for 121/2 years. Those with high nonexercise physical activity levels were 27 percent less likely to contract cardiovascular disease, 30 percent less likely to die from all causes than were seniors who were inactive.

The results were "not significantly different" from seniors who did regular formal exercise, but had low nonexercise activity levels, the researchers said. Those who did both had the lowest risk.

Such activities are good for the mind as well as the body, Dr. Herb said.

"Studies indicate remaining active in your life can be protective of your memory," she said.

The study was published last month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Jack Kelly:, 412-263-1476

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