Value of exercise for seniors shown in multi-center study with Stanford

November 21, 2006

STANFORD, Calif. -- On your mark, get set, go! Seniors who acquaint themselves with that well-known mantra may live more independent lives, according to new research.

A study, which appears in the November issue of Journal of Gerontology, is the first to show that physical activity can improve a person's score on a standardized test of physical mobility, said Stanford University School of Medicine professor Abby King, PhD. She and other Stanford researchers took part in the multi-center study demonstrating that elderly people who increase their levels of regular exercise perform better on a test measuring balance, walking speed and ability to rise from a chair.

Researchers at the University of Florida and the National Institute of Aging coordinated the work. The Stanford team, led by King, professor of health research and policy and of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, played a key role in recruiting and working with 100 study participants in the Bay Area. The research was a preliminary study, and the next step is to conduct a full-scale, long-term trial on the benefits of exercise in the elderly.

"We are encouraged by these results, which demonstrate that a well-designed program combining aerobic, strength, balance and flexibility exercises can make a difference for those who are at high risk of losing mobility function," said Jack Guralnik, MD, PhD, a co-leader of the study from the National Institute of Aging.

King said the study's goal was to determine whether regular exercise could keep people healthier and more independent as they age. "Exercise is one way of having a huge impact on our aging population," she said.

Previous work suggested that performance on the fitness test is predictive of future health problems. According to King, earlier research had shown that seniors with lower scores die earlier and are also more likely to end up in assisted-care facilities. "The goal of this study is prevention - keeping people out of nursing homes," said King.

Researchers at Stanford and other sites recruited 424 participants aged 70 to 89. Participants lived independently, but they were at risk of developing an age-related disability, said King.

The study leaders randomly divided participants into two groups. Half the seniors spent approximately two and a half hours a week walking at a moderate pace. They also strengthened and stretched their leg muscles. The second group of seniors received education on healthy living, including advice on nutrition, medication and foot care. The study followed participants for just over a year.

The people who exercised regularly performed better on the standardized fitness test than people who received health education, and they were better able to walk a quarter of a mile. The fitness test is scored on a scale of one to 12, and the people who exercised improved their scores by one point on average, which is considered substantial. They were also less likely to suffer from an age-related disability that hampered their movement.

The study's findings held for men and women as well as for people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Indeed, as people age, they share a common concern. "When you ask seniors what they are most afraid of they often don't put cancer or other specific age-related diseases at the top of the list," said King. "They say loss of independence."
-end-
BROADCAST MEDIA CONTACT: M.A. Malone at (650) 723-6912 (mamalone@stanford.edu)

The study was conducted at three centers in addition to Stanford - the Cooper Institute in Dallas, the University of Pittsburgh and Wake Forest University - and was funded by the National Institute on Aging. The University of Florida was the coordinating center, and Wake Forest was the data management, analysis and quality control center. Investigators from Tufts University, Yale University, UC-San Diego, UCLA and the National Institute on Aging also contributed to the study.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

Stanford University Medical Center

Related Physical Activity Articles from Brightsurf:

Physical activity in the morning could be most beneficial against cancer
The time of day when we exercise could affect the risk of cancer due to circadian disruption, according to a new study with about 3,000 Spanish people  

Physical activity and sleep in adults with arthritis
A new study published in Arthritis Care & Research has examined patterns of 24-hour physical activity and sleep among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and knee osteoarthritis.

Regular physical activity seems to enhance cognition in children who need it most
Researchers at the Universities of Tsukuba and Kobe re-analyzed data from three experiments that tested whether physical activity interventions lead to improved cognitive skills in children.

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.

Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Read More: Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.