POST 50
05/06/2014 11:13 am ET | Updated May 06, 2014

Picking Up The Pace As You Grow Older Boosts Heart Health, Study Finds

Ariel Skelley via Getty Images

A new study in Circulation provides even more proof that maintaining or boosting your physical activity as you age is important for a healthy heart.

After monitoring the heart rates of 985 adults over a five-year period, researchers found that those who walked more and faster, and generally enjoyed more physical activity during their leisure time, had fewer irregular heart rhythms and greater heart rate variability than those who were less active.

Indeed those who did the most exercise had an 11 per cent lower risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death than those who did the least.

Heart rate variability is defined as the differences in the time between one heartbeat and the next during everyday life.

"Any physical activity is better than none, but maintaining or increasing your activity has added heart benefits as you age," said Dr. Luisa Soares-Miranda, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and the Faculty of Sport at the University of Porto in Portugal, in a written release. "Our results also suggest that these certain beneficial changes that occur may be reduced when physical activity is reduced.

"So if you feel comfortable with your usual physical activity, do not slow down as you get older -- try to walk an extra block or walk at a faster pace," Soares-Miranda added. "If you're not physically active, it is never too late to start."

Other studies, too, have shown a link between physical activity and heart health.

For example, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found people over 60 with plenty of simple daily physical activities to have a 27 percent lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers believe that -- generally speaking -- people who have more physical activity are healthier because standing and moving around stimulates the metabolism, whereas sitting slows it down. Indeed a 2012 study found that if people spend less than three hours a day sitting, they can add two years to their lifespan.

So why are you still sitting there? Get out and get moving!

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