It’s something we’ve all heard: Exercise can help keep older adults healthy. But a new study, the first of its kind to focus on frail, older adults, proves that physical activity can help these people maintain their mobility and dodge physical disability. The University of Florida study shows daily moderate physical activity may mean the difference between seniors being able to keep up everyday activities or becoming housebound. In fact, moderate physical activity helped aging adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise.
As we age, losing the ability to walk a short distance often means losing independence. Now researchers say they have found a treatment that, for some, can prevent the loss of mobility.
The prescription: a moderate exercise program. The program of walking, strength training, stretches and balance exercises was tested on sedentary adults ages 70 to 89, all of whom started out in declining physical condition. Results were published in the medical journal JAMA.
Regular exercise, including walking, significantly reduces the chance that a frail older person will become physically disabled, according to one of the largest and longest-running studies of its kind to date. The results, published in the journal JAMA, reinforce the necessity of frequent physical activity for our aging parents, grandparents and, of course, ourselves.
The Hispanic American population in this country is growing; health disparities affect Hispanic Americans; and this group’s rate of overweight and obesity is growing at an alarming rate. Physical inactivity is greater among Hispanics when compared to that of other groups. This study featured in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health reviewed reports of physical activity interventions targeting the Hispanic American adult population across a four-year period.
Here are some key points found:
- Most of the interventions were community based while some were clinical, family-based, and faith-based.
- Barriers to physical activity often relate to time constraints and environmental access.
- The Hispanic Americans studied felt like they had little time for social interactions – which included physical activity – given the demands of home and family.
- Social support increased the likelihood of participation in physical activity, and an extra benefit was the friendships formed during the physical activity intervention.
- Important factors in the success of the interventions included each individual’s sense of commitment, his or her self-efficacy, and a strong sense of group identity.
- Activities that included staff from the same ethnic group of the population being studied reported improved recruitment.
- We need legislative policies that increase Hispanic Americans’ access to physical activity opportunities.
How do we define “moderate exercise”? The question is prompted by federal guidelines recommending that we get 150 minutes of moderate — or 75 minutes of vigorous — aerobic exercise each week. American guidelines suggest that during moderate exercise, you should be able to “talk, but not sing.” It seems subjective, so researchers at York University in Toronto set out to determine how realistic people’s perceptions are about how intensely they exercise. They found that volunteers overestimated how hard they were exercising and so might not obtain the full benefits they were expecting. Read the full article for information about how the study measured exercise intensity. The article concludes with a bit of encouragement: “any amount of physical activity at almost any intensity will have some health benefits.”
Orthopedics This Week reports on a study finding that osteoarthritis patients benefit from walking and should not fear that walking might cause increased damage to their joints. “People with osteoarthritis can decrease the possibility of developing physical limitations by walking more,” according to physical therapist Daniel K. White, Sc.D., PT, of Boston University, and his colleagues.
- Increased steps (1,000 more steps per day) were associated with a lower risk for later deterioration whether assessed on an objective performance-based measure or on a self-report measure.
- Walkers who totaled 5,000 to 7,500 steps per day cut their risk of complications from osteoarthritis in half.
- Less than one-third of primary care physicians advise their patients with osteoarthritis to walk.
- White and his group suggest that physicians who are recommending walking to their patients set an initial goal of 3,000 steps per day.
Here’s a study that disputes the old adage, “no pain, no gain.” According to a study published in British Medical Journal, results indicated that light-intensity physical activity is beneficial. Such activity can decrease your risk for the onset of osteoarthritis disability, or, if you already have that, can decrease the progression of the disability. The study was specific to knee osteoarthritis.
Dorothy Dunlop, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, points out that these findings can encourage patients who cannot increase their level of physical activity because of health limitations. She said, “We were delighted to see that more time spent during the day, simply moving your body, even at a light intensity, may reduce disability.” Read the full article here.
If you are African-American or Hispanic, will that make a difference in which hospital you choose when you need a hospital? Do you believe that equality of treatment should be considered as a factor in what makes a hospital excellent? Dr. Louis W. Sullivan and Dr. Augustus A. White, III, suggest that if U.S. News and World Report were to include equality of treatment as a factor in their ranking of the best hospitals, then more hospitals would become sensitive to the problem of unequal care. This in turn could improve healthcare delivery to minority and underserved populations. And, a ranking of hospitals based on equality of service might guide you in selecting the hospital where you feel you will receive the best treatment. Read more of the article, published in CNN Opinion, here.
How does obesity affect the pain of osteoarthritis (OA)? It may sound like a simple question, but this article reports on a study that sought to determine whether patients with a higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, experienced greater pain than their less-obese friends and neighbors who also suffered with osteoarthritis.
Some key points:
- The heavier you are, the more likely you are to develop osteoarthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is not necessarily more prevalent today than it has been in the past.
- Patients with a higher BMI reported more pain, regardless of the severity of their joint damage.
- For each level of arthritis severity, pain scores were higher among obese patients than among non-obese patients.
- Hormones associated with obesity may affect the severity of knee arthritis and pain.
- A decrease in body weight could decrease arthritis pain.
Has America become a “postracial” society? Virtual Mentor, The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics asks, is a “postracial” society achievable—or even desirable? As our understanding of race and ethnicity evolves, doctors must learn from the past and remain alert to the ways in which they may be harming or failing patients today. Read the full article here.