Even small rise in activity brings big impact on seniors' disability risk, study finds

Share this content:

Seniors who get an additional 48 minutes of exercise per week can significantly boost their physical function and reduce their risk of immobility, recent research shows.

The findings come from Tufts University researchers who set out to gauge the impact of physical activity on seniors over 70 who had low physical function and engaged in less than 20 minutes of physical activity each week.

The study assigned half of the seniors to a program of walking and walking-based strength and balance training, while the other half received health education workshops.

The researchers originally aimed to have participants engage in 150 minutes of activity per week, but they noticed improvements in gait speed, mobility and physical performance after just 48 minutes of activity per week.

Those results are “encouraging” and show that “small increases can have big impacts,” lead researcher Roger Fielding, Ph.D., said in an announcement published Monday.

“We wanted the physical activity sessions to include exercise that participants could do outside of the study, and we hope that learning of these results might motivate others to try to make safe, incremental changes to their activity levels,” Fielding said. “Reducing muscle loss, functional decline and loss of independence are important to anyone, at any age, and at any physical ability.”

The study appears in PLOS ONE.