Exercise prevents mobility problems

Exercise prevents mobility problems

Less than an extra hour a week of moderate exercise can make a big difference in helping the elderly stay mobile and reduce their risk of developing major mobility problems, a US study suggests.

Improvements were seen in all the 70-to-90-year-olds, who added some physical activity to their weekly routines over about two years, and those who got more exercise saw greater changes, researchers report in the journal PLoS ONE. Exercise prevents or cures conditions such as hip fractures, heart disease and diabetes that often underlie mobility disability, said lead author Dr Roger Fielding of Tufts University in Boston. But “it was not known if exercise could prevent the onset of physical disability in people who might be at risk for becoming disabled,” he said.

His team found “a graded dose response, with the greatest benefit in the group of people who on average increased their exercise approximately 50 minutes per week over two years,” said Dr Fielding.

In the current analysis, they found that more activity is better, but even a little helps. Dividing the exercise group into four subgroups based on weekly activity level, researchers found that those with the most activity were 77% less likely than those with the least activity to develop major mobility disability.

Moderate intensity exercise is generally safe for most people, Dr Fielding said. “Walking was part of our intervention and almost all older people, even those with mobility problems, can begin a walking programme.” He recommends starting slowly, with about five minutes per session and building up over time. “Try to walk at least for five days a week,” he said, adding that people should inform their physician that they are starting to exercise.

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