Negative Effects of Exercise May Outweigh Benefits for Seniors With Mobility Issues

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Physical activity tied to higher likelihood of respiratory hospitalization
Physical activity tied to higher likelihood of respiratory hospitalization

HealthDay News — Structured physical activity does not improve respiratory outcomes in elderly adults with mobility limitations, but is linked with higher risk of respiratory hospitalization, according to a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Carlos A. Vaz Fragoso, MD, from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues randomized 1,635 community-dwelling, elderly persons (mean age, 79 years) with mobility limitations (Short Physical Performance Battery scores <10) to either physical activity (walking, strength, flexibility, and balance training) or health education (topical workshops and upper extremity stretching exercises).

The researchers found that physical activity had no effect on dyspnea severity, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), or maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP). However, physical activity was associated with higher likelihood of respiratory hospitalization, which was significant for exacerbation of obstructive airways disease (hazard ratio, 2.34; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.19 to 4.61; P = 0.01) and marginal for pneumonia (hazard ratio, 1.54; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.98 to 2.42; P = 0.06).

"Physical activity was associated with higher likelihood of respiratory hospitalization than health education, but differences in dyspnea severity, FEV1, and MIP did not accompany this effect -- indicating that higher hospital use could be attributable to greater participant contact," the authors write.

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