Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity For Older Adults Reduces Mobility Problems

elder exerciseModerate-Intensity Physical Activity For Older Adults Reduces Mobility Problems Among older adults at risk of disability, participation in a structured moderate-intensity physical activity program, compared with a health education intervention, significantly reduced the risk of major mobility disability (defined in this trial as loss of ability to walk about a quarter mile), according to a study published by JAMA. Mobility‰ÛÓthe ability to walk without assistance‰ÛÓis 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. Marco Pahor, M.D., of the University of Florida, Gainesville, and colleagues with the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study, randomly assigned 1,635 sedentary men and women (age 70 to 89 years) who were able to walk 400 meters to a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program conducted in a center and at home that included aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training activities, or to a health education program, consisting of workshops on topics relevant to older adults and upper extremity stretching exercises. The adults participated for an average of 2.6 years. Participants were enrolled at 8 centers across the country. Major mobility disability 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 was exå_perienced 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. ‰ÛÏThese 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,‰Û the authors write. So forget the learning, get to the doing.