Last Wednesday marked the 21st annual “National Senior Health & Fitness Day”. More than 1,000 facilities across the country hosted special events to celebrate senior fitness and raise awareness about its importance.

The importance of senior fitness was also highlighted last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. Researchers from the University of Florida shared results from a new, randomized study showing physical activity significantly helps frail elderly people maintain mobility and delay disability.

The “Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE)” study was conducted over a 2.6 year period. Eight facilities around the country served as field centers. Researchers recruited 1,635 sedentary men and women to participate, ranging in age from 70 to 89. They were divided into two groups:

Moderate Physical Activity Group

  • Performed cardio, resistance and flexibility training
  • 2x per week at the field center
  • 3-4x per week at home

Health Education Group

  • Attended health related workshops
  • Performed upper extremity stretching exercises

Researchers report the physical activity group outperformed the education group. They were able to maintain more mobility and delay the onset of physical disability over the 2.6 year period. This was the largest and longest study of its kind.

Looking for a senior fitness program? The National Institute on Aging at NIH (National Institutes of Health) has designed a program called “Go4Life”. It offers cardio, strength, and stretching exercises for older adults. Other senior exercise options include group fitness classes, which are sometimes covered by insurance. Two examples are Silver & Fit and Silver Sneakers.

You can read more about the LIFE study results in the May issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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