elderly couple walking for exercise with weights

Here’s how you can lead a healthy and independent life as you get older

As we get older we risk an overall decline in physical functioning and mobility due to ageing. But that risk is even greater for those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Physical activity plays a huge role in maintaining our health on many levels including physical functioning and mobility.

But how much physical activity is optimum to maintain our health and reduce disability risk so that we can lead healthy and independent lives as we get older?

To test this, researchers from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University conducted a multicentre single masked randomized controlled trial. They recruited participants in 2010 and 2011 and followed them for an average of 2.6 years.

The researchers analysed data from 1,635 men and women, age 70 to 89 years old,  and who had functional limitations.

Changes in activity were significantly greater in the physical activity group than the health education group from baseline to 24 months.

The participants were randomly divided into structured moderate intensity walking, resistance, and flexibility physical activity program or a health education program.

All the participants had low levels of physical activity before they started the study and had reported less than 20 minutes per week of regular physical activity in a month.

The participants were then evaluated at baseline, six, 12 and 24 months with the help of movement monitors and self-reporting to measure physical activity outside study sessions.

Outcomes were identified as 400 m walk gait speed, the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB), assessed at baseline, six, 12, and 24 months, and onset of major mobility disability (defined by loss of ability to walk 400 m in 15 min).

Significant changes were noticed in gait speed and SPPB from baseline at six, 12 and 24 months which were dose-dependent on the amount of time spent on physical activity per week with the greatest benefits seen in participants who engaged in at least 48 minutes of physical activity per week.

Changes in activity were significantly greater in the physical activity group than the health education group from baseline to 24 months.

The magnitude of change in physical activity over 24 months was also related to the reduction of the onset of major mobility disability.

The researchers aim was to make the participants walk up to 150 minutes per week and found that at 48 minutes per week the results were positive which should motivate other people to make safe, incremental increases in their level of physical activity. This will help them reduce muscle loss, functional decline, and loss of independence – all important factors at any age.

Its never too late to start exercising. If exercise is something you avoid or you have low levels of energy and physical activity, make slow but deliberate incremental changes to your exercise routine so that you can lead a healthy and independent life as you get older.

Source: PLOS ONE

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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