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Gardening and DIY Boosts Heart Health and Lifespan in Seniors

Update Date: Oct 29, 2013 02:04 PM EDT

Gardening and DIY activities may promote heart health and longevity, a new study suggests.

New research reveals that having an active hobby like gardening can decrease the risk of heart disease and extend life by as much as 30 percent among older adults. Experts say the latest findings suggest that routine activities are as good as exercise for preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers monitored the heart health and daily activities of 4,232 60-year-olds in Stockholm, Sweden for 12.5 years, according to BBC.

Participants had undergone a health check, which included information on lifestyle, such as diet, smoking and alcohol intake and how physically active they were, at the start of the study.

Participants were asked about their range of daily life activities such as gardening, DIY, car maintenance and blackberry picking over the pervious 12 months, as well as whether they had taken any formal exercise.

Participants also underwent a series of lab tests and physical examinations to evaluate cardiovascular health, according to Daily Mail.

The findings revealed that those who had a generally active life had a significantly lower risk profile for cardiovascular problems, irrespective of how much formal exercise they took, than those with low levels of daily activity.

Researchers explained that those who led active lives had smaller waists, lower levels of potentially harmful blood fats, and lower glucose, insulin, and clotting factor levels in men. This was also true for people who did a lot of formal exercise, but who weren't routinely physically active very often.

The study showed that participants who exercise regularly and were also routinely physically active had the lowest risk profile of all.

Further analysis revealed that the highest level of daily physical activity was associated with a 27 percent lower risk of heart attack or stoke and a 30 percent reduced risk of death from all causes, compared with the lowest level.  This was true, irrespective of how much regular formal exercise was taken in addition.

"Our findings are particularly important for older adults, because individuals in this age group tend, compared to other age groups, to spend a relatively greater proportion of their active day performing [routine activities] as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels," researchers wrote in the study, according to The Guardian.

In light of the latest findings, researchers recommend that people, especially older adults, get moving and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Researchers believe that the biological explanations for the latest findings lie in energy expenditure. They said that prolonged sitting lowers metabolic rate and disrupts hormones produced in muscle tissue. Researchers said these effects could trigger outcomes on other body organs and tissues.

The latest findings are published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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