Older adults who exercise regularly can reduce risk of severe mobility problems

Nearly one in four adults aged 65 and older has trouble walking or climbing stairs—and 3.4 million older adults have trouble taking care of their personal needs, such as dressing or bathing. As we age, these difficulties can impact our well-being and our ability to live independently.

Nordic walking poles. McMaster University Photo

Daniel E. Trucil, EurekAlert! February 8, 2017

Based on the proven health benefits of exercise for older adults, a team of researchers theorized that exercise might also help adults prevent or delay disabilities that interfere with independent living. The team designed a study to test that theory, and their results were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers enrolled 1,635 adults between the ages of 70 and 89. All of the participants were at high-risk for becoming physically disabled. At the beginning of the study, the participants were able to walk about five city blocks (one-quarter of a mile) without assistance. The participants were split into two groups. One group was encouraged to exercise regularly. In addition to taking a daily 30-minute walk, they performed balance training and muscle strengthening exercises.

The other group attended weekly workshops for 26 weeks, followed by monthly sessions. The workshops provided information about accessing the healthcare system, traveling safely, getting health screenings, and finding reliable sources for health and nutrition education. The workshop instructors also led the participants in 5- to 10-minute flexibility or stretching exercise sessions.

Researchers gave all participants thorough tests for disability at the beginning of the study and then at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months after the study started.

The researchers reported that people in both groups experienced about the same level of disability after the study. However, people in the exercise group experienced a lower level of severe mobility problems than did people who attended the health workshops.

Source EurekAlert! American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS
via American Geriatrics Society – Health in Aging Foundation

Effect of Physical Activity on Self-Reported Disability in Older Adults: Results from the LIFE Study, Manini TM, Beavers DP, Pahor M, Guralnik JM, Spring B, Church TS, King AC, Folta SC, Glynn NW, Marsh AP, Gill TM; LIFE study investigators. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 May;65(5):980-988. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14742. Epub 2017 Feb 7. Full text
  Further reading
Effect of Metabolic Syndrome on the Mobility Benefit of a Structured Physical Activity Intervention-The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders Randomized Clinical Trial, Botoseneanu A, Chen H, Ambrosius WT, Allore HG, Anton S, Folta SC, King AC, Nicklas BJ, Spring BJ, Strotmeyer ES, Gill TM; LIFE Study Group. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Jun;65(6):1244-1250. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14793. Epub 2017 Mar 28. Full text

Antihypertensive Use and the Effect of a Physical Activity Intervention in the Prevention of Major Mobility Disability Among Older Adults: The LIFE Study, Buford TW, Miller ME, Church TS, Gill TM, Henderson R, Hsu FC, McDermott MM, Nadkarni N, Pahor M, Stafford RS, Carter CS; LIFE Study Research Group. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Jul;71(7):974-81. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv222. Epub 2016 Feb 10. Full text

Hospitalizations During a Physical Activity Intervention in Older Adults at Risk of Mobility Disability: Analyses from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders Randomized Clinical Trial, Marsh AP, Applegate WB, Guralnik JM, Jack Rejeski W, Church TS, Fielding RA, Gill TM, King AC, Kritchevsky SB, Manini TM, McDermott MM, Newman AB, Stowe CL, Walkup MP, Pahor M, Miller ME; LIFE Study Investigators. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2016 May;64(5):933-43. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14114. Full text

Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Overall Burden and Transitions Between States of Major Mobility Disability in Older Persons: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Trial, Gill TM, Guralnik JM, Pahor M, Church T, Fielding RA, King AC, Marsh AP, Newman AB, Pellegrini CA, Chen SH, Allore HG, Miller ME; LIFE Study Investigators. Ann Intern Med. 2016 Dec 20;165(12):833-840. doi: 10.7326/M16-0529. Epub 2016 Sep 27. Full text

Effect of structured physical activity on prevention of major mobility disability in older adults: the LIFE Study randomized clinical trial, Pahor M, Guralnik JM, Ambrosius WT, Blair S, Bonds DE, Church TS, Espeland MA, Fielding RA, Gill TM, Groessl EJ, King AC, Kritchevsky SB, Manini TM, McDermott MM, Miller ME, Newman AB, Rejeski WJ, Sink KM, Williamson JD; LIFE study investigators. JAMA. 2014 Jun 18;311(23):2387-96. doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.5616.6. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5616 Full text

About the Health in Aging Foundation
This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults.

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