It’s no secret that exercise is good for the body, and this fact doesn’t decrease with age—but physical function does.
A study appearing in PLOS One that observed the effect physical activity can have on seniors ages 70-89 with functional limitations reports that “an important but understudied issue in physical activity trials in older adults is intervention adherence and the minimum dose necessary to achieve benefit.” After observing seniors for 2.6 years to address these issues, the study concluded that moderate exercise is effective in improving seniors’ mobility issues and overall physical function. The study also concluded that the time spent on physical activity matters. The magic number? 48 minutes.
Originally the study aimed to add 150 minutes of physical activity to seniors’ weekly regimen; but after seeing results, researchers determined that 48 minutes per week was enough to show significant improvement.
Half of the seniors participating in the study were randomly assigned to a walking program and walking-based strength, flexibility and balance training. The other half were assigned to participate in health education workshops. Prior to the study, all participants reported that their regular physical activity consisted of less than 20 minutes per week. Results showed that the group participating in the walking-based exercises saw a greater, positive change in their physical activity capabilities than the group that participated in the health education program.
In a public announcement, first and corresponding author Roger A. Fielding, senior scientist and director of the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA pointed out that in their first LIFE study, it was confirmed that regular exercise can “help improve function and prevent mobility loss. Now we see that small increases can have big impacts.”
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