Adding just a short amount of exercise to a weekly routine could offer significant benefits to health and mobility for older adults who are mostly sedentary, new research has shown.
A study at Tufts University in the US analysed data from 1,635 men and women aged 70 to 89 over the course of 2.6 years. Half were assigned to a programme of walking and strength, flexibility and balance training that lasted around an hour a week, while half participated in health education workshops.
In the month prior to the study, all of the adults had low physical functioning and reported doing less than 20 minutes a week of regular physical activity.
Study participants were evaluated at six, 12 and 24 months after the research began, with information collected via movement monitors and self-reporting.
It was found that the older people who engaged in at least 48 minutes per week of exercise demonstrated significant benefits to their health, which was also associated with the prevention of further mobility loss.
Although there were differences in exercise performance when using movement monitors compared to self-reporting, the study authors said the research nevertheless shows how improving functional independence could be easily implemented in the community.
Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, first author and senior scientist Roger A Fielding said: "We see that small increases [in regular exercise] can have big impacts. We hope that learning of these results might motivate others to try to make safe, incremental changes to their activity levels. Reducing muscle loss, functional decline and loss of independence are important to anyone, at any age, and at any physical ability."
The news comes after Public Health England revealed last month that four in ten 40 to 60-year-olds are failing to achieve the recommended ten minutes of brisk walking a month, let alone a day, to improve their health.
British adults now walk 15 miles less in a year than they did 20 years ago and are 20 per cent less active than was the case in the 1960s.