45 Minutes of Weekly Exercise Benefits Older Adults

Moderate activity is the most effective type of activity to maintain or improve physical function two years later.Moderate activity is the most effective type of activity to maintain or improve physical function two years later.

Engaging in physical activity can reduce pain and help maintain mobility and independence for older adults with arthritis, but current exercise recommendations are often unachievable for this population.

However, a new study finds that exercising for just 45 minutes is enough to reap the benefits. First author Dorothy Dunlop, professor of rheumatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, and colleagues report their findings in the journal Arthritis Care and Research. Arthritis is a term used to describe inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form, caused by “wear and tear” of cartilage that protects the joints. As the cartilage breaks down, pain, swelling, and joint movement problems may occur.

While physical activity can be challenging for many older adults with arthritis, it can help patients better manage their condition and maintain physical functioning. In addition, exercise can reduce the risk of other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, reported.

To reach their findings, researchers analyzed the data of 1,629 adults aged 49 and older who were part of the Osteoarthritis Initiative - a US nationwide study that aims to identify prevention and treatment strategies for patients with knee OA.

The physical functioning of each subject was assessed at study baseline and two years later through self-reported outcomes. Physical activity and functioning were also measured using movement-monitoring accelerometers.

After two years, the physical functioning of around a third of participants had either improved or remained high, the team reports.

 Higher Physical Function

Participants who engaged in regular exercise experienced higher physical function.

The team found that older adults who engaged in just 45 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, per week were 80% more likely to maintain or improve their physical functioning than those who exercised for under 45 minutes weekly.

Researchers say that their findings applied to both men and women with arthritis of the lower joints.

“We found the most effective type of activity to maintain or improve your function two years later was moderate activity, and it did not need to be done in sessions lasting 10 minutes or more, as recommended by US federal guidelines,” notes Dunlop.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults aged 65 and older engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.

However, according to Dunlop and colleagues, only one in 10 older US adults with knee OA meet these recommendations. This is most likely because they find such guidelines unachievable with their condition.

Participants who engaged in more than 45 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week saw greater benefits to physical function, but researchers believe that their findings show that older adults with arthritis need only perform a third of the recommended activity to remain functional.

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