Jun 9 2005
Older persons who are capable of physical activity but do not exercise have an increased risk of future problems walking or climbing stairs, according to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The Health, Aging and Body Composition Study (Health ABC Study) follows 3,075 black and white men and women aged 70 to 79 years old over the course of seven years to investigate changes in body composition as a pathway by which multiple diseases contribute to disability. Through annual clinic exams, home exams and telephone interviews, researchers discovered that mobility loss in older persons who do not exercise can be reduced by having an active lifestyle. Recommendations for exercise such as 1.5 to 2 hours of walking per week can help to decrease mobility loss with aging.
“Together with earlier evidence that physical activity in old age is beneficial for physical, cognitive and psychological health, the results show the importance of an active lifestyle in old age,” states lead author of the study, Marjolein Visser, PhD. “Health care providers should be aware of these beneficial effects of physical activity and communicate this to their patients.” Visser adds that more attention should be paid to the prevention of health decline through physical activity by health policy makers.
At the start of the study, none of the participants reported problems in walking one-quarter of a mile or climbing 10 steps. After 4.5 years, 34% of the men and 47% of the women developed problems in performing these activities. Data showed that participants who were inactive at the start of the study had the greatest risk of developing mobility problems compared to the exercisers, who had the lowest risk.
“Several studies have shown that becoming active at an old age still has positive health effects, showing that it is never too late to start being active,” says Visser. “Older persons should be informed about the beneficial effects of physical activity and should realize that it is not always necessary to visit a sports club.”
Marjolein Visser, PhD is an epidemiologist with a background in Human Nutrition, performing aging research using data from large cohort studies of older persons in theNetherlands and abroad.