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Cautioning elderly people from attempting to do too much physically is actually counterproductive, researchers suggest. They say that many seniors who worry about their health or possible negative outcomes from exercising instead choose to remain inactive, therefore causing greater potential harm later in life.

Oregon State University researchers say previous studies that have endorsed injecting anxiety into discussions about an elderly person’s health are off base. The studied more than 7,500 people 70 or older; those who worried more about their health took part in less physical activity and then later in life had more trouble walking.

“Using threats and fear-tactics to encourage physical activity in older adults will not work,” said researcher Bradley Cardinal, of OSU’s department of nutrition and exercise science, in a statement. Using education to ease worries about engaging in exercise, and simply encouraging people to walk, would be better approaches, he noted. The report appears in the current issue of Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.