Physical Activity Reduces Mobility Problems in Elderly Patients

Participating in 48 minutes of exercise improved physical function of older patients.

Increasing physical activity can elicit numerous health benefits in patients of all ages, including weight loss and improving overall and cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, walking and balance may present a barrier to higher levels of physical activity in older patients, which can lead to an increased risk of illness, disability, and even hospitalization.

A new study published by PLOS ONE found that 48 minutes of physical activity per week improved physical function and reduced the risk of disability among sedentary adults.

“These are people who want to live healthy, independent lives and are at risk for losing that,” said senior researcher Roger Fielding, PhD. “In our first study, we confirmed that physical activity can help prevent mobility loss. Now we see that small increases can have big impacts.”

Included in the LIFE study were 1635 patients aged 70 to 89 years who were followed up with for nearly 3 years. All patients were sedentary and reported low levels of physical activity prior to the start of the study, with many participating in less than 20 minutes of exercise per week.

Half of the patients were randomized to participate in a program that included walking and walking-based strength, flexibility, and balance training, while the other half of patients attended health education workshops.

The authors found that the more exercise the patients participated in, the better their physical function.

These findings suggest that aging patients should increase physical activity levels to ensure they mitigate potentially dangerous adverse events and disability, according to the study. The authors noted that even low-impact activities, such as walking, may be beneficial to health.

The most substantial gains were made among patients who participated in 48 or more minutes of physical activity per week, highlighting the importance of increasing exercise, according to the study.

“Regular physical exercise can bring a host of health benefits to older adults and the benefits often outnumber the risks,” Dr Fielding said. “If we want to reduce muscle loss, functional decline, and loss of independence as we age, we need to keep people moving.”