In 2014, the top-notch journal JAMA published the results of a fantastic research project: a study in which 1635 sedentary older adults (aged 70-89) were assigned to get either a structured exercise program, or a program of “successful aging” health education. The researchers called it the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study. (You can read the full study here.)
During the LIFE study, the two groups were followed for a little over 2.5 years. And by the end of the study, guess which group of volunteers was more likely to still walk a quarter of a mile (without a walker)?
That’s right. When it came to avoiding “major mobility disability” — which the researchers defined as becoming unable to walk 400 meters or more — a structured exercise program was better than a program of healthy aging education.
Specifically, the researchers found that 30% of the exercisers experienced a period of major disability, compared to 35.5% of the seniors enrolled in the healthy aging education program.
This is a very encouraging finding! That said, it’s also a bit sobering to realize that even with exercise, almost 1 in 3 older adults experienced a period of limited mobility, of which half lasted 6 months or more.
In this post, I’ll share some more details on this study, because the results provide a wonderful wealth of information that can be helpful to older adults, family caregivers, and even geriatricians such as myself.
Want to know how often the exercisers experienced “adverse events”? (Hint: often!) Wondering just what the structured exercise program involved? (Hint: more than walking!)
Let’s dig into the details! At the end of this post, I’ll share my list of key take-home points for older adults and family caregivers. [Read more…]