Elderly Find Moderate Physical Activity a Winning
Way to Avoid Mobility Problems
Study of over 1600 men and women age 70 to 89 lasted
over two and a half years. See video in bottom of story.
May 27, 2014 - A study described as the largest and
longest randomized trial of physical activity in elderly men and women
at risk of disability has found that structured physical activity of
moderate intensity is more effective than a health education program
with just physical stretching in reducing the risk of disability.
The physical activity group significantly reduced
their risk of losing the ability to walk 400 meters (about a quarter
Mobility - the ability to walk without assistance -
is a critical characteristic for functioning independently. Reduced
mobility is common in older adults and is an independent risk factor for
illness, hospitalization, disability, and death.
Limited evidence has suggested that physical
activity may help prevent mobility disability; however, there have been
no definitive clinical trials examining whether physical activity
prevents or delays mobility disability, according to background
information in the article.
The study was released online today by the
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) to coincide with
its presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine annual
Marco Pahor, M.D., of the University of Florida,
Gainesville, and colleagues with the Lifestyle Interventions and
Independence for Elders (LIFE) study, randomly assigned sedentary men
and women (age 70 to 89 years) who were able to walk 400 meters to a
structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program. This program
with 818 participants was conducted in a center and at a home that
included aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training activities.
Another group of 817 participants were assigned to
a health education program, which consisted of workshops on topics
relevant to older adults and upper extremity stretching exercises.
The groups participated for an average of 2.6
years. Participants were enrolled at 8 centers across the country.
Major mobility disability (loss of ability to walk
400 meters) was experienced by 246 participants (30.1 percent) in the
physical activity group and 290 participants (35.5 percent) in the
health education group.
Persistent mobility disability (two consecutive
major mobility disability assessments or major mobility disability
followed by death) was experienced by 14.7 percent of participants in
the physical activity group and 19.8 percent of participants in the
health education group.
A subgroup with lower physical function at study
entry, representing 45 percent of the study population, received
considerable benefit from the physical activity intervention.
Serious adverse events were reported by 49.4
percent of participants in the physical activity group and 45.7 percent
of participants in the health education group.
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. To our knowledge, the LIFE study is the
largest and longest duration randomized trial of physical activity in
older persons, the authors write.
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