Exercise in Old Age Helps Prevent Symptoms of Physical Decline

First Posted: Jun 02, 2014 11:24 PM EDT

Older adults who keep up with regular physical activity may be less likely to experience physical decline as they age.

More specifically, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that older adults in retirement communities who said they were involved in exercise more often were less likely to experience certain health issues as they got older. However, those who exercised less or not at all were more likely to experience the symptoms of physical decline.

 "Physical decline is natural in this age group, but we found that people who exercised more declined less," said Lorraine Phillips, an associate professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, via a press release. "The most popular physical activities the residents of the retirement community reported doing were light housework and walking, both of which are easily integrated into individuals' daily lives, but these exercises are not the best choices for maintaining muscle strength."

For the study, researchers examined the physical activity of 38 residents at TigerPlace, a community area in Columbia, Mo., four times in one year. The researchers tested the residents' walking speed, balance and ability to stand up following sitting in a chair. The test results were then compared to those who self-reported participation in exercise. Researchers found that those who typically reported more involvement in physical activity showed less signs of physical decline.

However, researchers note that many did not report muscle strengthening exercises, which are nationally recommended.

"For older individuals, walking may represent the most familiar and comfortable type of physical activity," Phillips said. "Muscle-strengthening exercises should be promoted more aggressively in retirement communities and made more appealing to residents."

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Clinical Nursing Research.

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