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Disabling Injury, Illness Less Likely for Elderly Who Exercise

And likely to recover more quickly if injury or illness occurs

elderly couple walking

TUESDAY, Sept. 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly adults who regularly exercise are less likely to suffer a disabling injury or illness, and recover more quickly if they do, according to a study published online Sept. 27 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Thomas Gill, M.D., professor of geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues recruited 1,635 sedentary adults ages 70 to 89. The researchers randomly assigned half the seniors to an exercise program, while the other half attended health education classes. Participants in the exercise group did some strength and balance training, but moderate walking was the cornerstone. Gill said they worked toward a goal of 2.5 hours of walking per week.

The researchers found that over the next 3.5 years, seniors who exercised spent 25 percent less time with major movement disability (MMD) -- an inability to walk a quarter-mile -- compared to the other participants. Active seniors were 13 percent less likely to develop MMD. Exercisers were one-third more likely to recover from the impairment.

"A structured physical activity program reduced the MMD burden for an extended period, in part through enhanced recovery after the onset of disability and diminished risk for subsequent disability episodes," the authors write.

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