Daily exercise helps keep seniors independent
If you don’t want to lose it, you better move it. A new study finds that seniors who walk and do basic strengthening drills on a daily basis are less likely to become physically disabled compared to those who did not exercise regularly.
Researchers recruited more than 1,600 people over the age of 70 who had trouble walking more than a quarter-mile and split them into two groups. Seniors in the first group were required to carry out daily moderate exercise (150 minutes of walking/week), while the second group only stretched and attended health education classes.
Both groups were evaluated every six months for nearly three years. At each assessment, researchers looked at participants’ walking ability, body weight, pulse rate and blood pressure, among other health measurements.
At the end of the study, seniors in the moderate exercise group had an 18 percent higher walking ability than those in the education classes group. Additionally, moderate exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in the loss of mobility.
“The very purpose of the study is to provide definitive evidence that physical activity can truly improve the independence of older adults,” said lead study author Dr. Jack Guralnik, in a news release. “The fact that we had an even bigger impact on persistent disability is very good. It implies that a greater percentage of the adults who had physical activity intervention recovered when they did develop mobility disability.”
This is the first large clinical trial to provide evidence that when older adults – who are typically sedentary – moderately increase activity levels; they might be able to delay their decline into disability, the study authors note.
The World Health Organization currently recommends adults 65 years of age and older get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity throughout the week.
“If you haven’t been exercising, it’s important to remember to start slowly,” says Teresa Beckman, a physical therapist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Illinois. “You can gradually increase duration and intensity over time, but always listen to your body.”
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