Moderate activity helps elderly people recover from disability

New York : Moderate physical activities like walking can help older adults recover from a major disability more quickly and maintain their independence over time, according to a new study.

According to the study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers compared the effects of a structured physical activity programme to those of a health education programme on more than 1,600 adults between the ages of 70 and 89.

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The study participants were not disabled but were sedentary and had some physical limitations.

The activity programme consisted mainly of walking, in addition to strength, flexibility and balance training exercises.

Over three-and-half years, the participants were assessed for major mobility disability, which was defined as the inability to walk a quarter mile.

Older adults need to be able to walk this distance to participate in many activities and maintain their independence, the researchers said.

The research team found that compared to the health education programme, the physical activity programme reduced the total time that older adults suffered from major disability by 25 per cent.

The participants were less likely to experience disability in the first place, more likely to recover if they did suffer a disability, and less likely to have a subsequent episode, said the researchers.

“Our report strengthens the evidence supporting the benefit and long-term value of physical activity in promoting independent mobility among a growing population of vulnerable older persons,” said Thomas Gill, Professor, Yale University.