Even modest levels of exercise can help stave off heart attacks and strokes among the elderly, new research suggests.
Elderly people who are moderately inactive have a 14% reduced risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, compared to those who were completely inactive, the study found.
Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked more than 24,000 adults from Norfolk in England for around two decades.
Participants were recruited between 1993 and 1997 from GP practices in Norfolk.
Their physical activity levels were assessed and they were subsequently classed as active, moderately active, moderately inactive and inactive.
During a median follow-up period of 18 years there were 5,240 cardiovascular disease events, such as coronary heart disease, symptoms of which include angina, heart attacks and heart failure, and stroke.
The research team found that any physical activity among the over 65s was better than none at all for reducing a person's cardiovascular risk.
"We know that regular physical activity has major health benefits," said lead author Dr Sangeeta Lachman from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
"Elderly people who were moderately inactive had a 14% reduced risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who were completely inactive.
"This suggests that even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial to heart health.
"Elderly people should be encouraged to at least do low intensity physical activities such as walking, gardening, and housework.
"Given our ageing population and the impact of cardiovascular disease on society, a broader array of public health programmes are needed to help elderly people engage in any physical activity of any level and avoid being completely sedentary."