THE PERFECT EXERCISE

In the course of a shift, nurses walk a lot.

The long corridors, the equipment that was forgotten but was needed in the room at the end of the corridor, answering the persistent alarm that keeps going off in the room on the other side of the ward.

These activities are the sort of comings and goings that nurses regularly do.

The benefits of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) are well known to nurses.

There is a lower risk of developing or dying from chronic diseases such as stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.

The activity that nurses do on some wards would tend towards the vigorous intensity physical activity.

It can be hard work.

A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that walking, even if not meeting the minimum recommended levels, is associated with lower mortality compared with inactivity.

For older adults, reaching the minimum threshold of physical activity for walking only conferred a similar mortality benefit as other types of MVPA.

Walking is not the only activity that older people should engage in.

There are benefits to improving strength, flexibility and balance.

As the study authors said

“Walking has been described as the “perfect exercise” because it is a simple action that is free, convenient, does not require any special equipment or training, and be done at any age.”

The guidelines for adults state that they should do greater than 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.

Only 42% of older adults (65-74 years) and 28% of older adults (75+ years) meet these minimum recommendations.

With all the walking that nurses do, we can easily extol the virtues of meeting these targets.

The least active or totally inactive adults were

  1. less-educated,
  2. more likely to be obese,
  3. non-drinkers
  4. smoked cigarettes
  5. have diabetes
  6. consume red or processed meat, and
  7. less likely to consume fruits and vegetables.

If they would walk twice the recommendation of walking only, there is a 29% reduction in mortality compared to what is the usual activity – little or none.

To learn more about walking in older adults,

Patel, Alpa V., et al. “Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older US Adults.” American journal of preventive medicine 54.1 (2018): 10-19.