Physical activity reduced immobility, disability risks in older adults

Forty-eight minutes of moderate exercise per week was associated with improvements in physical function and a decrease in the risk for immobility in older, sedentary adults, according to researchers at Tufts University.

In a study published in PLOS ONE, researchers reported that varying levels of exercise for adults aged 70 years to 89 years resulted in improvements to all participants. However, those who received more exercise saw greater changes. The study 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,” Roger A. Fielding, PhD, researcher and senior scientist and director of the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said in a press release. “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. Now we see that small increases can have big impacts.”

According to the release, the researchers analyzed data from 1,635 men and women during an average period of 2.6 years. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to a program of walking and walking-based strength, flexibility and balance training. The other half participated in health education workshops. All had low levels of physical function at the start and reported fewer than 20 minutes per week of regular physical activity in the month prior to the start of the study.

All participants were evaluated at baseline, 6 months, 12 months and 24 months. The researchers used movement monitors and participant-self-reporting to measure physical activity.

According to the researchers, activity levels were significantly greater in the physical activity intervention group, compared to the health education group, from baseline through 24 months. In addition, the greatest benefits were seen in the participants who engaged in at least 48 minutes of physical activity per week. The greater differences were also associated with prevention of major mobility loss, the release noted.

“Our goal was to have participants walking up to 150 minutes per week. To see benefits at 48 minutes is encouraging,” Fielding said in the release. “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.”



Fielding RA, et al. PLOS ONE. 2017;doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0182155.


Disclosures: Fielding reports grants, personal fees and other from Axcella Health; personal fees from Cytokinetics; grants and personal fees from Biophytis; personal fees from Amazentis; grants and personal fees from Nestle; grants and personal fees from Astellas; and personal fees from GlaxoSmithKline.

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