Study Shows Great Benefits of Exercise, Even in Small Doses, for the Elderly
Retaining the ability to get up and about easily — to walk across a parking lot, climb a set of stairs, rise from a chair and maintain balance — is an under-appreciated component of good health in later life.
When mobility is compromised, older adults are more likely to lose their independence, become isolated, feel depressed, live in nursing homes and die earlier than people who don’t have difficulty moving around.
Problems with mobility are distressingly common: About 17 percent of seniors age 65 or older can’t walk even one-quarter of a mile, and another 28 percent have difficulty doing so.
But trouble getting around after a fall or a hip replacement isn’t a sign that your life is headed irreversibly downhill. If you start getting physical activity on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to recover strength and flexibility and less likely to develop long-term disability, new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows.
Lung-affected Alphas of all ages have also reported that regular exercise helps them breathe more easily.
The study examined people at high risk of mobility problems: men and women between the ages of 70 and 89 who were sedentary and had some difficulties with daily activities but were still able to walk a quarter mile without assistance.
Half of the group attended 26 weekly health education classes followed by monthly seminars. The other half spent about an hour getting physical activity — primarily walking — at a clinic twice a week, followed by at-home exercises.
The goal was to have participants meet the government’s recommended standard of 150 minutes of weekly moderate physical activity and sustain that level over time.
Results confirmed the extraordinary benefits of physical activity, which has been shown in previous research to lower an individual’s risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes, depression and some cancers.
In the study, the group that focused on walking and strength and balance exercises was 25 percent less likely to experience significant problems with mobility than the group that focused on education over a period of almost three years. Specifically, they recovered faster from episodes of being unable to walk and were less likely to have problems getting around after that recovery period.
The program “was a godsend,” said John Carp, 87, who didn’t make it a point to walk regularly before he joined the study. “There was an improvement in physical feeling and also my mental attitude.”
“If there was a pill that offered comparable benefits, it would be a billion-dollar product and people would be all over it,” said Thomas Gill, MD, lead author of the new paper and a professor of geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, as well as director of Yale Program on Aging.
Source: Kaiser Health News
To read the full story, click here.