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Exercise Helps Elders Maintain Independence

Aerobic exercise can reduce biological age by a decade

FRIDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly people who stick to a regimen of regular aerobic exercise are more likely to retain functional independence and can reduce their biological age by 10 years or more, according to study results published online April 10 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Roy J. Shephard, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, reviewed evidence on whether or not documented loss of maximal oxygen intake earlier in life continues after retirement; the impact of oxygen uptake levels on independence; to what extent loss of oxygen uptake is preventable and reversible; the effect of aerobic training on maintenance of independence; and the effect of aerobic exercise on other risk factors for loss of independence.

Men and women aged 80 to 85 years are more likely to lose independence if their maximal oxygen intake drops below 18 ml/[kg.min] and 15 ml/[kg.min], respectively, the researcher reports. Regular aerobic exercise, however, can slow or even reverse deterioration in function and extend independence by a decade or more by reducing biological age by the same amount.

"There remains a need to clarify the importance of decreasing aerobic fitness relative to other potential causes of dependency, but, from the practical viewpoint, regular aerobic activity should be commended to elderly people since it can address many of the issues of both functional loss and chronic disease," the author writes.

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