Green fingers or light DIY 'cut risk of stroke for over-60s'

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A spot of gardening or some light DIY are as good as rigorous exercise for fending off heart attacks and strokes in the over 60s, a study has found.

Researchers in Sweden found that older people who performed a high level of “non-exercise physical activity” (NEPA), including everyday tasks like cutting the hedge, home repairs and even car maintenance, were 27 per cent less likely to suffer a major cardiovascular problem.

Such low-level activity was beneficial whether or not people also took part in organised exercise.

The study involved more than 4,200 people aged over 60, all living in Stockholm. Participants were monitored for more than 12 years and asked how often they performed 24 different NEPA tasks.

Those who performed the highest level of light day-to-day activity were not only less likely to suffer from heart problems, they also had “more preferable waist circumference”. Overall the group was 30 per cent less likely to die during the study period than the least active group.

“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,” write the authors from Sweden’s Karolinska University and the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.

Christopher Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Being physically active is important in maintaining good heart health. But, as this study demonstrates, you don’t need a gym membership to do that.

“As long as they make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make your heart beat faster, activities such as DIY and gardening count towards the 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity recommended for a healthy lifestyle.”