Physical Activity For Seniors May Be Even More Important Than We Thought–May Speed Recovery From Injury

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Seniors And The Importance Of Exercise: How Regular Exercise Speeds Recovery From Injury

The importance of exercise throughout all of life’s cycles, and especially as we age is something that becomes more and more apparent every day. Study after study confirms what we already know: as people age, if they choose not to exercise due to discomfort or fear of injury or lack of energy, they exacerbate some or all of those problems;

Not exercising is a self-fulfilling prophecy, then. Which is made doubly sad by recent studies that show that nearly a third of people over 50 don’t get any exercise at all beyond that which is required for basic existence.

However a recent study should encourage people even more strongly to take a second or third look at continuing to stay active into their senior years. Dr. Thomas Gill of Yale University School of Medicine followed a group of 1,600 seniors who were mostly sedentary to begin with.

He then asked half the group to begin a regimen of strength and balance training, along with regular walking. And the results couldn’t have been more clear-cut: the people in the group that exercised were 25 percent less likely to spend time disabled or injured than the non-exercising group.

But it wasn’t just that they were more fit and therefore less prone to injury, according to Gill.

“The benefit wasn’t just limited to preventing initial onset of disability but was also effective in promoting recovery after a disability,” says Gill. “Then, once the recovery occurred, the intervention was effective in preventing subsequent episodes of disability.”

The importance of that distinction shouldn’t be overlooked, says Gill. Previous studies only look at how exercise can prevent disability. But because most seniors spend a lot of time shifting back and forth between periods of immobility and full function, an exercise program could help reduce the time the spend with limited activity.

“This demonstrates that a physical activity program really has continued, sustained benefit over an extended period of time,” said Gill, who went on to suggest that perhaps the exercise builds up a back-up store of energy that aids in recovery when and if injury does occur.

And Gill said the results were especially important to the lives of seniors, given that most of the participants came into the study with some hindrance to their ability to get exercise: problems with mobility, balance or lack of muscle tone. His study demonstrates that anyone can benefit from an exercise program, regardless of initial fitness.

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