Running and other aerobic exercise can not only help older people live longer, but also improve their quality of life, a new study finds.
Disabilities develop nine years later
Dr Benjamin Wang and colleagues of the University of Tennessee Health Science Centre in Memphis followed a group of runners and non-runners to find out whether regular exercise could help older people delay disability.
The researchers monitored 370 members of a running club and 249 people who did not belong to a running club, from 1984 to 1997. All the participants were at least 50 years old at the start of the study.
To monitor disability, each participant answered a questionnaire every year about their abilities in eight areas, including dressing and grooming, personal hygiene, walking, reach, grip and general activities.
The people who ran and participated in other aerobic activity, were less likely to develop physical disabilities and lived longer, Wang and colleagues reported in the November 11th issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
On average, those who ran developed disabilities nearly nine years later than non-runners.
Less likely to die
Besides the benefits of postponing disability, the researchers found that running club members were less likely to die during the study period than people who participated in other aerobic activities.
People who were not running club members were more than three times more likely to die during the study period, not only from diseases clearly linked to lifestyle, such as heart disease, but from all types of illnesses.
Never too late
Wang, who was at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, California, when the study was conducted, believes that these results offer encouragement for people who want to start exercising.
He says that the benefits of an aerobic exercise programme were evident even amongst those who only started exercising in middle age and especially evident among women.
However, before starting an exercise programme, Wang advises that the elderly should check with their doctors to make sure the programme is safe. – (Health24)