Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physical activity helps maintain mobility in older adults

Date:
May 27, 2014
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
It’s something we’ve all heard for years: Exercise can help keep older adults healthy. But now a study, the first of its kind, proves that physical activity can help older adults maintain their mobility and dodge physical disability.

Older adults complete walking exercises at the University of Florida as part of the UF-led LIFE study. The study, released May 27, examined how physical activity affects the mobility of adults aged 70-89.
Credit: Jesse Jones, UF Health

It's something we've all heard for years: Exercise can help keep older adults healthy. But now a study, 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.

A new University of Florida study shows daily moderate physical activity may mean the difference between seniors being able to keep up everyday activities or becoming housebound. In fact, moderate physical activity helped aging adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise. "The very purpose of the study is to provide definitive evidence that physical activity can truly improve the independence of older adults," said principal investigator Marco Pahor, Ph.D., director of the UF's Institute on Aging.

What's more, moderate physical activity not only helped older adults maintain mobility but also helped prevent the occurrence of long-term mobility loss. Co-principal investigator Jack Guralnik, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said there was a 28 percent reduction in people permanently losing the ability to walk easily.

"The fact that we had an even bigger impact on persistent disability is very good," said Guralnik, who also holds a faculty position at UF. "It implies that a greater percentage of the adults who had physical activity intervention recovered when they did develop mobility disability."

The results will be published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and will be presented on May 27 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Orlando.

Researchers showed 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. Although 400 meters might sound like an arbitrary number, it's an important figure for older adults, researchers said.

"Four hundred meters is once around the track, or from the parking lot to the store, or two or three blocks around your neighborhood," Guralnik said. "It's an important distance in maintaining an independent life."

Called the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, study, the study took place across eight field centers. There were two Florida field center recruitment sites at the University of Florida and Jacksonville Brooks Rehabilitation as well as field centers at Northwestern University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford University, Tufts University, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Yale University.

The 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. Low physical performance can be a predictor of early death and higher hospitalization and institutionalization rates, and patients with low physical performance are not often recruited to large studies, Pahor said.

"These are people who are patients we see every day. This is why this study is so important: It includes a population that is typically understudied," Pahor said.

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.

Staff members 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.

The study did turn up one unanticipated result: The number of people reporting hospitalizations in the physical activity group was slightly higher than in the education group, though the number was not statistically significant. The researchers think this is in part because the physical activity group had more frequent contact with research staff, possibly resulting in a higher reporting of hospitalizations. The physical activity could also have triggered underlying heart trouble and other health problems. Researchers plan to study this occurrence more closely, Pahor said.

"It's quite a vulnerable and high-risk population," Pahor said. "Both age and poor health were factors. We selected people who had low physical performance, which is a strong predictor for future morbidity, hospitalization, institutionalization and mortality."

Wendy Kohrt, Ph.D., professor of medicine in the division of geriatric medicine at the University of Colorado, helped review the scientific merit of the study before the launch of the main LIFE trial. She said the information produced by this study fills gaps in researchers' knowledge of the types of people enrolled in the study.

"As an exercise scientist, I believe this type of research is absolutely critical to establish scientific evidence on which to make recommendations for how lifestyle can beneficially influence health status," Kohrt said. "There is a general belief among the public and the scientific and medical communities that we know exercise is good for you, so why do we need to do more research in this area? However, we still do not know whether certain types or doses of exercise are better than others, particularly for specific health conditions or diseases. The LIFE trial demonstrated that a modest increase in physical activity has the potential to help older adults maintain functional independence."

Pahor and Guralnik said there is still a vast amount of data to unpack from the study, including looking at the effects of physical activity on the participants' emotional well-being. The research team also plans to determine how physical activity impacted the participants' physiological, social and biological factors.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Physical activity helps maintain mobility in older adults." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527133244.htm>.
University of Florida. (2014, May 27). Physical activity helps maintain mobility in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527133244.htm
University of Florida. "Physical activity helps maintain mobility in older adults." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527133244.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

Ebola Cases Keep Coming for Monrovia's Island Hospital

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) A look inside Monrovia's Island Hospital, a key treatment centre in the fight against Ebola in Liberia's capital city. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

Ebola Puts Stress on Liberian Health Workers

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) The Ebola outbreak is putting stress on first responders in Liberia. Ambulance drivers say they are struggling with chronic shortages of safety equipment and patients who don't want to go to the hospital. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Doctors Reassure Public Ebola Patient Won't Cause Outbreak

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) After the announcement that the first U.S. patient had been diagnosed with Ebola, doctors were quick to say a U.S. outbreak is highly unlikely. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

TX Hospital Confirms Patient Admitted With Ebola

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Medical officials from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital confirm they are treating a patient with the Ebola virus, the first case found in the US. (Sept. 30 Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins