Study: exercise improves senior citizen’s health

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – There is a definitive answer to the question, is it ever too late to start exercising?

New Haven was one of eight sites of nationwide study. Researchers at Southern Connecticut State University and Yale School of Medicine worked together, targeting seniors between the ages of 70 to 89 years old, who were sedentary and not the healthiest.

A group of seniors took part in The Life Study, The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders Study for three and a half years at Southern Connecticut State University. Researchers found those in a moderate physical activity program, were more likely to stay mobile in later years, compared to those who did not. Their overall health also improved.

Exercise Physiologist, Dr. Robert Axtell, Co-principal Investigator said, “exercise is a form of medicine.”

A significant finding he said because the study focused on ‘sedentary’, basically inactive people and not the healthiest of the population.

“Here you have people who,” said Dr. Axtell, “exercise was not their daily routine, this is totally new to them.”

They took on a weekly aerobic, balance and strength exercise program, and were tested throughout the study.

“The inability to walk 400 meters was improved in the active group by about 18 percent,” he said.

The study also found participants were 28 percent less likely to develop a persistent mobility issue. 85-year-old John Carp is a diabetic and had a hip replacement. “And I was getting to the point where I had to push myself. This program came along and it was godsend,” Carp said.

It led to decreased medication and more steps.

“I used to have a 5 mg pill, now I have a 2 and half, ” Carp added, “I just get around better.”

Louise Weaver is 73 years old. She said, “what a difference. I don’t have that high blood pressure anymore. I do take blood pressure medicine but very little.”

Weaver is now motivated to stay active.

“As I was in the program, some of the people turned 90 and they were still doing well, so it was nice to see that,” said Weaver.

“Prior to this study, I was in really bad shape,” said 79 year old Curtis Patton. Walking was a challenge for Patton after a serious car accident.

“Exercise beats all drugs. I am not saying people should get off their drugs but exercise, please, always exercise. Exercise is like a drug,” he said.

Dr. Axtell says the hope is, communities will develop programs for this population so they can remain independent and maintain their health. The results were published online in the Journal of The American Medical Association.

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