The study shows inflammation in the body – which is thought to contribute to heart disease – remains lower in people in the transition to retirement who embrace an active lifestyle, with at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate physical activity (enough to raise your heart rate), than in those who stay less active. This is great news for retirees, who often celebrate their new-found freedom with a whole range of activities, from gardening to DIY to countryside walks.
In the study, over 4,000 people from the Whitehall II cohort were quizzed on their exercise routines and had levels of inflammation measured to gauge their heart health over a ten year period.
Dr Mark Hamer, UCL Epidemiology and Public Health, said: “Previous studies looking at how exercise protects the heart have only been carried out for short periods of time. Our ten year study reveals for the first time the long-term effects of leading an active lifestyle on inflammation and heart disease.
“It’s great news that people who spring into retirement and become more active are actually making a big difference in helping their hearts grow old healthily.”
British Heart Foundation Senior Cardiac Nurse Maureen Talbot said: “Donning your gardening gloves, or picking up a paint brush, can still go a long way to help look after your heart health, as exercise can have a big impact on how well your heart ages.
It’s great news that people who spring into retirement and become more active are actually making a big difference in helping their hearts grow old healthily.
Dr Mark Hamer, UCL Epidemiology & Public Health
“This research highlights the positive impact changing your exercise habits can have on the future of your heart health – and that it’s never too late to re-energise your life. However it’s important not to wait until you retire to get off the couch, as being active for life is a great way to keep your heart healthy.”
Jack Oldman, aged 87, who plays table tennis through the BHF Hearty Lives Hull project, said: “I play at my club twice a week and still compete in my local league. If I couldn’t play sport I don’t know what I‘d do.
“The worst thing you could do when you retire is to sit down and watch telly all day. I keep busy with sports and my vegetable patch and it seems to be keeping me going well – doctors have told me I’ve got a great heart for my age.”
The research, which was supported by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council, is published in the journal Circulation.
Media contact: David Weston
Image caption: Joggers keeping fit. Credit: Sangudo