Research has shown that the ability to walk unassisted is likely the single most important factor in maintaining your independence as you age. Targeting this simple metric may offer the secret to staying independent and new research supports this conclusion.
A recent study of over 1600 men and women in their 70’s and 80’s with mostly sedentary lifestyles aimed to examine whether a basic exercise program focused on lower body strength could help to maintain independent walking status in older adults.
Details are below:
Participation in the study averaged 2.6 years. The physical activity group of 818 people gradually worked up to the goal of 150 minutes of weekly activity, including 30 minutes of brisk walking, 10 minutes of lower extremity strength training, 10 minutes of balance training, and large muscle flexibility exercises. Their programs took place at a clinic twice a week and at home three or four times a week. The 817 people in the comparison group participated in weekly health education workshops for the first 26 weeks, followed by monthly sessions thereafter. They also performed five to 10 minutes of upper body stretching and flexibility exercises in each session. Participants in both groups were assessed every six months at clinic visits.
Those in the group that had frequent exercise showed a nearly 20% recuction in their risk for major mobility problems.
To put that into real numbers let’s assume that over the 2.6 year study period 10 out of every 100 people developed a walking problem. That would mean that in the group of adults that did the exercise program, only 8/10 would develop a walking issue. That is a significant reduction.
Interestingly the authors note that when the study ended, the adults in the exercise group were disappointed that the program was over, meaning they actually liked it.
So exercising is enjoyable and will keep you independent longer- even if you are old and out of shape to start with. Hard to argue with that.
Move it or lose it. The scientific evidence has finally caught up to the old adage.