Three new studies focusing on senior health show evidence that moderate physical activity every day—even in your 70s and 80s—can keep help aging adults maintain their mobility and independence as well as a healthy heart.
Researchers from the University of Florida recently found several reasons for seniors to stay active. With the help of remote field centers set up at universities throughout the country, they conducted the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, study, which involved more than 1,600 sedentary men and women between the ages of 70 and 89. They found that elderly adults who exercise daily are 18 percent more likely to maintain their ability to walk than those who don’t. In addition, those who participate in moderate daily physical activity are less likely to experience long-term mobility loss.
“The fact that we had an even bigger impact on persistent disability is very good,” said co-principal investigator Jack Guralnik in a recent interview. “It implies that a greater percentage of the adults who had physical activity intervention recovered when they did develop mobility disability.” Results of the LIFE study were published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A similar study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK recruited more than 200 seniors averaging 78 years of age. Researchers found that those who included at least 25 minutes of moderate exercise in their daily routine had fewer health problems and were prescribed fewer medications. Further, the most active participants in the study—those who exercised an average of 39 minutes daily—cut their emergency room visits in half when compared to those were not as active.
Finally, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health recently found that maintaining or increasing physical activity after age 65 helps seniors improve heart health and reduces the risk of having a heart attack. The Cardiovascular Health Study looked at heart monitor recordings for nearly a thousand seniors over a five-year period and found that those who walked more and were generally more active on a daily basis lowered their risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest by 11 percent. “Do not slow down as you get older,” said Dr. Luisa Soares-Miranda, lead author of the study. “Try to walk an extra block or at a faster pace.”