Being physically active has its advantages and the benefits apply even to seniors. Findings of a new study suggest that older adults should exercise regularly as this apparently helps in reducing risks of losing mobility.

For the new study "Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults: The LIFE Study Randomized Clinical Trial" which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on May 27, and which will be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Orlando, Florida that will run from May 28 to 31, researchers sought to determine whether a structured physical activity program or a health education program could lead to a reduction in mobility disability in older adults.

Study researcher Marco Pahor, from the Institute on Aging at the University of Florida, and colleagues involved more than 1,600 men and women who were between 70 to 89 years old at the start of the study who were able to walk 400 meters without assistance.

The researchers randomly assigned the participants to either participate in a structured exercise program where they were assigned to walk and participate in flexibility, strength and balance training conducted at home up to four times a week and at a medical center twice per week for an average of two and a half years, or in a health education group where assigned participants attended meetings that discuss topics that are relevant and helpful to seniors. The meetings were conducted on a weekly basis during the first 26 weeks of the study but the frequency was reduced to once a month after the 26th week.

Two and a half years later, 36 percent of the participants who belonged to the health education group could no longer walk a quarter mile, while only 30 percent of the participants in the physical activity group could no longer walk the same distance. By tracking the participants ability to walk a quarter mile without assistance every six months, the researchers also found that the participants in the physical activity group has 18 percent higher mobility rate than the participants belonging to the health education groups. The seniors who also engaged in the structured exercise program were also found to be at 28 percent reduced risks of losing their ability to walk suggesting that regular exercise can help prevent mobility problems in seniors.

"The key issue is that we did not have until now definitive evidence where physical activity could prevent a major outcome such as (loss of) mobility in adults," Pahor said.

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