Maintaining mobility in older adults can be as easy as a walk in the park

With just a daily 20-minute walk, older adults can help stave off major disability and enhance the quality of their later years, according to results of the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) Study, conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine in collaboration with seven other institutions around the country. The study is published in the May 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mobility, the ability to walk without assistance, is key to functioning independently. Reduced mobility is common in older adults and is a risk factor for illness, hospitalization, disability, and death.

The LIFE study is the largest randomized controlled trial ever conducted on physical activity and health education in older adults. Coordinated at the University of Florida, Gainesville, the study enrolled 1,635 sedentary men and women aged 70 to 89 who led and were at risk of mobility disability. Participants were recruited from urban suburban, and rural communities around the country, and randomly assigned to either a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program, or to a program focused on topics related to successful aging. The trial examined whether physical activity prevents or delays mobility disability.

After more than two years of follow-up, the multicenter team found that the risk of major was reduced by 18% among participants in the group, meaning that they were more capable of walking without assistance for about a quarter mile.

"We want to change how people live," said the director of the Yale field center, Thomas Gill, M.D., the Humana Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine, who chaired the measurement committee, which was responsible for determining the main study outcomes. "Maintaining independence for is both a public health and a clinical priority, and modifying lifestyle is an important approach to maintaining independence."

Gill added, "Years from now, LIFE will be considered a landmark study, one that has informed policies to keep older persons independent in the community."

More information: Paper: JAMA DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.5616

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can Exercise Prevent Disability?

May 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study will test if exercise can prevent or delay the declining ability to walk in older adults.

Genes may thwart seniors' exercise gains

Mar 14, 2014

Keeping strong and physically fit is crucial to maintaining independence among the elderly. Exercise has repeatedly been shown to reduce or slow age-related declines in physical function and is a widely recommended for seniors, ...

Better mobility keeps seniors healthier

Aug 09, 2007

As people lose the ability to walk unaided, they tend to suffer further deterioration that can interfere with other daily living activities. As the U.S. population ages, it becomes increasingly important to identify and target ...

Recommended for you

Malnutrition a hidden epidemic among elders

2 hours ago

Health care systems and providers are not attuned to older adults' malnutrition risk, and ignoring malnutrition exacts a toll on hospitals, patients, and payers, according to the latest issue of the What's Hot newsletter ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.