A new study has suggested that seniors who are physically active and exercise for more than 60 minutes each week can lessen their chances of disability as they age.
Led by Bonnie Bruce, of the division of immunology and rheumatology at Stanford University Department of Medicine, the study looked at 805 adults between the ages 50 and 72 at enrollment and followed for them for 13 years, from 1989 to 2002.
Each year, participants answered survey questions about their overall health and vitality and rated themselves on their ability or inability to do tasks such as dressing, eating and reaching.
Responses fell on a scale from 0 (no difficulty) to 3 (unable to do).
Participants also reported their level of activity and were considered 'active' if they exercised vigorously for more than 60 minutes per week, or 'inactive' if 60 minutes or less per week.
Bruce and colleagues then grouped them as normal-weight active, normal-weight inactive, overweight active or overweight inactive, with BMI determining their weight group.
The normal-weight physically active seniors reported an average of 303 minutes of exercise per week, as compared to an average of 16 minutes for normal-weight inactive seniors.
On the other hand, overweight seniors who were physically active reported an average of 251 minutes per week, as compared to 12 minutes for the overweight inactive seniors.
After a follow-up of 13 years, researchers found that the overweight active seniors (average disability score 0.14) had significantly less disability than the overweight inactive (average disability score 0.19) and normal-weight inactive seniors (average disability score 0.22) seniors.
The researchers concluded that being physically active, regardless of body weight, helped lessen disability.
The study appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health.