Regular walking halves disability risk in elders

July 16th, 2008 - 3:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 16 (IANS) The elderly decrease risk of disability by 41 percent by taking part in walking exercises, according to a new study. The study found that older people who walked increased their peak aerobic capacity by 19 percent and physical function by 25 percent.

“Until now we didn’t have good evidence using an objective performance measure that a walking programme would improve physical functioning,” said study’s co-author M. Elaine Cress of the University of Georgia.

“Our study found that walking offers tremendous health benefits that can help older adults stay independent.”

Researchers randomly assigned 26 low-income adults aged 60 and above to either a walking exercise group, which met three times a week for four months, or a nutrition education control group.

Initially, the group would walk for 10 minutes continually. As the weeks progressed, they increased their walking time to 40 minutes.

Trudy Moore-Harrison, co-author of the study, explained that researchers focused their study on low-income individuals because people with fewer financial resources are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to have chronic health conditions and lack health care coverage.

Getting people to stick with exercise programmes can be notoriously difficult but the researchers found that every single member of the group stayed with the programme for its four-month duration.

The researchers measured the aerobic capacity of the participants using a treadmill test and found that while the control group saw a 9 percent decline in aerobic capacity over the four-month study period, the aerobic capacity of the walking group increased by 19 percent over the same time.

The researchers found that physical function increased by 25 percent in the walking exercise group, compared to a decrease of 1 percent in the control group.

And while the control group saw their risk of disability increase over the four-month period, the walking exercise group saw their disability risk fall from 66 percent to 25 percent - a decrease of 41 percent in just four months.

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