Exercise helps seniors improve physical function

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: February 28th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Retirement means a time to relax for many seniors. But those reformed workaholics who once couldn’t find time to walk the dog may want to use their leisure time as an opportunity to be active.

New research findings show that a prescription of regular structured exercise enables sedentary elderly to safely improve their physical function and possibly reduce the likelihood they will experience difficulty moving as they get older.

Researchers with a multicenter pilot study led by the University of Florida reported that study participants given a routine of walking and stretching were able to improve their score on a standardized mobility test by nearly a full point on a twelve-point scale.

Previous research has found the score on this performance test can predict future health outcomes. Even a small improvement of a half point on the test score’s scale translates as a major improvement in an elder person’s ability to do things like walk, dress or bathe.

This study demonstrated that the physical activity was extremely safe for the study participants, who were elderly people at a high risk of becoming disabled.

As federal health agencies report more people live longer and more seniors die from injuries caused by falls, maintaining physical ability becomes increasingly important for the elderly as they age.

The researchers say this study indicates that even for elderly people who would rather watch sports on television than move themselves, taking small steps toward getting active may keep them fit and independent longer.