Fri, Oct 21, 2016 | updated 02:51 AM IST

Regular walking could ward off movement-limiting disability

Updated: Sep 27, 2016 15:29 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Sept. 27 (ANI): A recent study suggests that regular exercising reduces the impact and span of mobility-limiting disability in elderly.

For the study, researchers took over 1,600 sedentary people between 70 and 89 years old, who had been suffering some functional limitations but could walk about a quarter of a mile in 15 minutes or less, unassisted by another person or a walker.

Half of the participants got a health education program involving regular in-person sessions and some stretching exercises, while the other group was told to aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity as well as strength, flexibility and balance training both at the study's facilities and at home.

Expert in the field Thomas Gill said, "Walking was the cornerstone of the program."

The study followed participants for about 2.7 years and found that the physical activity program cut the amount of time that people spent with their disability.

An earlier report findings from the same study showed that the exercise program lowered the risk of becoming disabled in the first place and this one showed that it sped recovery from an episode of disability and lowered the risk of subsequent episodes.

"They've done a really nice job of showing the incredible power of physical activity," said researcher Bradley Cardinal.

Another researcher also noted that people who engage in physical activity have a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, cognitive impairment and functional decline.

The exercise program pretty closely followed the government's recommendations for all adults, including older ones: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, plus two strength sessions that hit all the major muscle groups.

Cardinal said older adults need to realize that exercise can greatly improve their quality of life by maximizing function as long as possible.

But he said that many believe that older age is for relaxing and that physical activity is somehow dangerous or unnatural.

That belief is pervasive among older adults even though for many of them, meeting the minimum requirements "is doable", he said.

"We try to frame this as more physical activity than exercise. We talk with older folks and many say, 'I can't exercise, but maybe I can become more physically active," he said.

Study participants were advised to "start low and go slow," and some were even able to get rid of their canes after six months of exercise, which they found particularly rewarding.

There are also some basic behavioral strategies for getting yourself to get moving, no matter your age, including giving yourself an incentive to change and engineering your environment to encourage the activity.

The study was published in Annals of Internal Medicine. (ANI)