May 27, 2014 04:19 PM EDT
Moderate Physical Activity Could Help Older Adults Maintain Mobility
Physical activity may help older adults maintain mobility and keep them healthy, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the University of Florida found that daily moderate physical activity may mean the difference between seniors being able to keep up everyday activities or becoming housebound.
"The very purpose of the study is to provide definitive evidence that physical activity can truly improve the independence of older adults," Marco Pahor, principal investigator of the study and director of the University of Florida's Institute on Aging, said in a statement.
The study is the first of its kind to look at frail, older adults, proves that physical activity can help these people maintain their mobility and dodge physical disability.
For the study, researchers recruited 1,635 sedentary men and women ages 70 to 89 for the study. The participants could walk a quarter mile within 15 minutes but were at risk of losing that ability.
The participants were randomly separated into two groups and followed for an average of 2.6 years. The first group of 818 walked 150 minutes per week and did strength, flexibility and balance training. They were monitored by two visits to field centers per week. The second group of 817 attended health education classes and performed stretching exercises. This phase of the study occurred between February 2010 and December 2013.
The research team assessed study participants every six months, checking their ability to walk, their body weight, blood pressure and pulse rate, among other measurements. The staff was not told which participants were assigned to physical activity or to the education classes.
They found that prescribed daily physical activity can prevent older adults' loss of mobility, defined in the study as the ability to walk 400 meters, or about a quarter of a mile.
"Four hundred meters is once around the track, or from the parking lot to the store, or two or three blocks around your neighborhood," Jack Guralnik, researcher and a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine, said in a statement. "It's an important distance in maintaining an independent life."
Researchers said moderate physical activity not only helped older adults maintain mobility but also helped prevent the occurrence of long-term mobility loss; there was a 28 percent reduction in people permanently losing the ability to walk easily.
The findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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