Physical activity associated with reduced mobility disability in seniors

1356802_37487589Regular physical activity can be beneficial at all ages, but may be especially important for seniors as loss of mobility can both be a result of, as well as cause, chronic illnesses. A new study found that seniors who participated in a moderate-intensity physical activity program were more likely to maintain mobility compared to those who participated in health education workshops.

Researchers from the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida recruited about 1600 individuals ages 70 to 89 and randomly assigned them to either a moderate-intensity physical activity group or a health education group. The physical activity program included aerobic exercises, strength and resistance training and stretching and balance activities. The health education program included workshops on health and upper body stretching. Participants attended these workshops for an average of 2.6 years. Researchers reported that participants in the moderate-intensity physical activity group reported fewer chronic and acute incidents of major mobility disability as compared to the health education group. Major mobility disability was defined as the loss of the ability to walk about 1200 feet. Researchers also reported that those in the physical activity group reported increased levels of exercise following study participation compared to those in the health education group.

Dr. Bruce A. Leff, of the Johns Hopkins Geriatrics Center says that this study is especially important given that there are barriers to seniors participating in physical activity related to family members worrying that the patient will hurt him or herself as a result of participating in physical activity and seniors may be worried about the safety of their own neighborhoods preventing them from engaging in activities such as walking. Ultimately, Leff says, Exercise is the silver bullet for good health.

And according to study authors, These results suggest the potential for structured physical activity as a feasible and effective intervention to reduce the burden of disability among vulnerable older persons, in spite of functional decline in late life.

ACSH s Ariel Savransky adds, Exercise has the potential to really improve quality of life for older Americans. This study indicates that in a structured environment, they can participate in physical activity in a safe and effective way, and work should be done to make programs like this more available and accessible as well for that vulnerable group.