(HealthDay News) — A study published online May 27 in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that moderate-intensity physical activity reduces mobility problems in older adults. This research was released to coincide with presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, held from May 28–31 in Orlando, Fla.

Marco Pahor, MD, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues evaluated 1,635 sedentary men and women aged 70–89 years who had physical limitations but were able to walk 400 meters. The participants were randomized to either a structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program (at a center twice/week and at home three or four times/week) or a health education program consisting of workshops on topics relevant to older adults and upper extremity stretching exercises. The intervention included aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training activities.

The researchers found that new, major mobility disability occurred in 30.1% of the physical activity group and 35.5% of the health education group (hazard ratio, 0.82; P=0.03). In the intervention group, persistent mobility disability was experienced by 14.7% of participants, compared to 19.8% in the health education group (hazard ratio, 0.72; P=0.006). Similar numbers of serious adverse events were reported by the two groups (risk ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 0.98–1.20).

“A structured, moderate-intensity physical activity program compared with a health education program reduced major mobility disability over 2.6 years among older adults at risk for disability,” Pahor and colleagues conclude.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the fitness and pharmaceutical industries.

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