Older people who regularly exercise are less likely to suffer a disability in the first place but if they did, they tend to recover faster
Now, there’s even more evidence that exercise is good for your health even if you are getting older.
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A new research suggests that elderly adults can avoid disability if they exercise regularly and even if they suffer mobility impairment, they can recover faster than others.
“Older people tell us that what's most important to them is maintaining their independence," said lead author Dr. Thomas Gill, a professor of geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine.
“What we're learning is, once disability develops, it's not uncommon for older adults to recover. It's not just a one-way street into further decline.”
For the study, researchers enrolled more than 16,000 people aged 70 to 89 with no or irregular physical activity. All the participants were at high risk of disability and other chronic health problems because of the lack of physical activity. But they were not suffering from disability at the start of the study and were able to walk a quarter of a mile in minimum 15 minutes without the assistance of other person or walker.
Half of the participants were assigned to a regular walking program along with some strength and balancing training while the other group was given a health education program involving regular in-person sessions and some stretching.
Researchers followed the participants for the next 3.5 years. By the end of the study, they noticed a clear different between the two groups. Participants who exercised had spent 25 percent less time with a major mobility problem. They were also less likely to experience mobility impairment. But if they had, they tend to recover faster than those who didn’t exercise and also had low chances to experience it again.
“This demonstrates that a physical activity program really has continued, sustained benefit over an extended period of time,” said Gill.
“The benefit wasn’t just limited to preventing initial onset of disability but was also effective in promoting recovery after a disability. Then, once the recovery occurred, the intervention was effective in preventing subsequent episodes of disability.”
Most older adults in U.S. do not follow a regular exercise regimen. Mostly believe that old age is meant for relaxing and if they do exercise it can be dangerous or risky for their health. But it’s not the case here. In fact, exercise could help build up a reserve capacity that makes older adults fitter and stronger and therefore better able to recover from injuries, falls or illness.