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Small Increases in Activity Reduce Disability Risk in Seniors

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By    |   Tuesday, 12 Sep 2017 11:53 AM

Seniors who add only 48 minutes of moderate physical activity a week improve their overall physical capabilities and decrease their risk of disability, says a new study led by researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University.

Researchers evaluated how different amounts of exercise would benefit older adults. While the researchers saw improvements in all participants who added some physical activity to their routine, those who got more exercise saw greater changes. The work is part of the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study.

"These are people who want to live healthy, independent lives and are at risk for losing that," said senior scientist Roger A. Fielding. "Maintaining functional independence for older adults is an important public health issue.

"In our first LIFE study, we confirmed that regular exercise can help improve physical function and prevent mobility loss," he said. "Now we see that small increases can have big impacts."

Researchers analyzed data from 1,635 men and women age 70 to 89 over an average of 2.6 years. Half were randomly assigned to a program of walking and walking-based strength, flexibility and balance training; half participated in health education workshops.

All participants had low levels of physical functioning at the start and reported fewer than 20 minutes per week of regular physical activity in the month prior to starting the study. They were evaluated at baseline, six, 12, and 24 months. The researchers relied on movement monitors and self-reporting to measure physical activity outside study sessions.

Researchers found that the more the volunteers exercised, the greater their benefits. The greatest benefits, which were associated with prevention of major mobility loss, were seen in those who engaged in at least 48 minutes of physical activity per week.

"Our goal was to have participants walking up to 150 minutes per week. To see benefits at 48 minutes is encouraging," said Fielding. "We wanted the physical activity sessions to include exercise that participants could do outside of the study, and we hope that learning of these results might motivate others to try to make safe, incremental changes to their activity levels.

"Reducing muscle loss, functional decline, and loss of independence are important to anyone, at any age, and at any physical ability," he said.

The study was published in PLOS ONE.

Another study published this year found that exercising may override the effect of being overweight or obese on the risk of heart attack or stroke in middle-aged and elderly people. The study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that physical activity was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease even if the person was overweight.

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Seniors who add only 48 minutes of moderate physical activity a week improve their overall physical capabilities and decrease their risk of disability, says a new study led by researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts...
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Tuesday, 12 Sep 2017 11:53 AM
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