By Alice park
There’s even more reason to exercise, especially as you get older. While study after study confirms the benefits of physical activity for the heart, mind and body, many older adults do not follow a regular exercise regimen. The findings of a new study may compel them to change, though.
In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers led by Dr. Thomas Gill, a professor medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, followed more than 1,600 elderly adults who were mostly sedentary at the start of the study. Gill had half of them start a walking and strength and balance training regimen, and by the end of the study, the results were clear: people who exercised spent 25% less time disabled or injured than those who did not.
“The benefit wasn’t just limited to preventing initial onset of disability but was also effective in promoting recovery after a disability,” says Gill. “Then, once the recovery occurred, the intervention was effective in preventing subsequent episodes of disability.”
That’s important for seniors, he says, since most previous studies looking at exercise’s benefits only focused on whether physical activity could prevent disability. But since most elderly spend time cycling in and out of periods of immobility, the latest results show that exercise can also help them reduce the time spent with limited activity and independence.
“This demonstrates that a physical activity program really has continued, sustained benefit over an extended period of time,” says Gill. The exercise could be working to build up a reserve capacity that makes them fitter and stronger and therefore better able to bounce back after injuries like falls or illness. That means they might be able to recover more quickly if they do experience a blow to their health.