Fifteen minutes of daily exercise may be what it takes for the elderly to cheat death.

A new study linked this to a 22 percent lower death risk among older adults, demonstrating how less exercise than recommended may actually bear fruit.

French researchers analyzed a group of 1,011 French individuals aged 65 in 2001 and were followed for 12 years. They also looked at a huge group of more than 122,000 people from an international cohort who were about 60 years old and were followed for about 10 years.

The team measured physical activity via Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes every week, meaning calories spent per minute of physical activity. A MET minute every week equates to the amount of energy expended by sitting; recommended levels of exercise, for instance, are from 500 to 1,000 MET minutes a week.

The discovery: death risk dropped during the study as people exercised more. Even those with low activity levels or half the recommended amount had about 22 percent decreased risk, while those with medium and high levels had 28 percent and 35 percent lower risks.

"Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment,” said study author and University Hospital of Saint-Etienne physician Dr. David Hupin.

Less than half of the elderly, however, appear to get the recommended minimum of 150 minutes composed of moderate-intensity workout or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. The findings showed that less can potentially be more and even help reduce mortality.

In fact, the researchers saw the highest jump in benefit at low exercise level, which translates to a 15-minute brisk walk each day, while the medium and high levels provided smaller increments of gain.

Hupin said that drastic changes to physical activity are unnecessary. Instead, one should progressively up the amount of activity he or she is doing, such as doing the 15 minutes daily and gradually moving closer to the suggested 150 minutes a week.

The findings were presented at the EuroPRevent 2016 meeting.

Last October, a study on women ages 65 to 75 found that resistance training may slow brain aging among the elderly female population. Seeing slower progression of brain lesions in women who lifted weights twice a week, the research highlighted the physical and cognitive benefits of strength training in the elderly.

Strength training – seen to provide gains similar to running and swimming – can be done at home or in the gym and comprise body weight exercises like push-ups and leg squats.

Photo: Maxwell GS | Flickr

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