Study: A weekly hour of exercise can stave off disability in older adults

Just one hour a week of brisk physical activity can help stave off disability in older adults with joint pain from osteoarthritis. (AFPrelaxnews pic)

According to new research from the US, just one hour a week of regular exercise can help older adults suffering from joint pain to maintain independent mobility.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the study analysed data from more than 1,500 patients aged 49 to 83, covering a four-year period.

Although participants had problems such as pain, aching or stiffness in lower extremity joints from osteoarthritis, they were all free of disability when they began the study and were able to perform day-to-day tasks such as getting dressed or crossing the street before a traffic light walk signal changed.

During the four-year period, individuals’ physical activity was monitored using accelerometers.

“Our goal was to see what kind of activity would help people remain free of disability,” explains the study’s lead author, Dorothy Dunlop, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Illinois, USA.

After analysing the data, the researchers observed that one hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week reduced participants’ risk of mobility disability by 85%.

After the four-year study period, 24% of adults who did not get the weekly hour of brisk physical activity were walking too slowly to cross the street safely, and 23% reported problems performing their morning routine.

To stay in shape, the World Health Organisation recommends at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate physical activity per week for adults.

This advice also applies to seniors, although a 40-year-old may find the target more achievable than a 70-year-old.

“This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable,” concludes Dorothy Dunlop.

“This minimum threshold may motivate inactive older adults to begin their path toward a physically active lifestyle with the wide range of health benefits promoted by physical activity.”