During the study, 26 low-income adults aged 60 and older were randomly assigned to either a walking exercise group, which met three times a week for four months, or a nutrition education control group
At the beginning of the study, the group would walk for 10 minutes continually, but as the weeks progressed, they increased their walking time to 40 continuous minutes.
It suggested that elderly could decrease their risk of disability and increase their likelihood of maintaining independence by 41 percent.
"Our study found that walking offers tremendous health benefits that can help older adults stay independent," said study co-author M. Elaine Cress, professor of kinesiology and researcher in the UGA Institute of Gerontology.
Trudy Moore-Harrison, the lead author of the study and a former UGA doctoral student, said the researchers focused their study on low-income individuals because people with fewer financial resources are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to have chronic health conditions and lack health care coverage.
The team from University of Georgia also measured the aerobic capacity of the participants using a treadmill test and found that while the control group saw an 9 percent decline in aerobic capacity over the four-month study period, the aerobic capacity of the walking group increased by 19 percent over the same time period.
The walking exercise group also improved their physical function by 25 percent.
While the control group saw their risk of disability increase over the four-month period, the walking exercise group saw their disability risk go from 66 percent to 25 percent - a decrease of 41 percent in just four months.
"We know that walking is good for you, but too many people still aren't doing it,". "This study shows that just walking on a regular basis can make a huge impact on quality of life," Moore-Harrison said.
The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy.