Exercise Delays Loss of Mobility in Elderly

June 9, 2014

A structured fitness program can prevent or delay loss of mobility in elderly individuals, according to the first study to test the question.

Pahor M, Guralnik JM, Ambrosius WT, et al. Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults: The LIFE Study Randomized Clinical TrialJAMA. (2014) May 27. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.5616

Physical activity can prevent or delay the onset of mobility disability in the long term, judging from the first trial to test the question. A moderate-intensity physical activity program reduced major mobility disability over 2.6 years among older adults at risk for disability, compared to a control group that received only a health education program.

The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study randomized 1,635 sedentary men and women aged 70-89, who had physical limitations (defined as a score of ≤9 on the Short Physical Performance Battery) but were able to walk 400 meters. Forty-five percent of participants were targeted to have a score of <8.

The intervention group got a structured moderate-intensity physical activity program in a center and at home, with a goal of 30 minutes of walking daily, 10 minutes of lower extremity strength training, 10 minutes of balance training, and large muscle group flexibility exercises. The control group got workshops and upper extremity stretching exercises.

By the end of the study, 35% of the control group but only 30% of the exercise group had met the predefined outcome, losing the ability to walk 400 meters.

As to the US population in general, the Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators show that the percentage of adults meeting federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activity has met the 2020 target.

The target was to have 20.1% of adults meeting the goal for aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening. In 2012, 20.6% of adults met the goal.