Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Pharma Outsourcing
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Structured Physical Activity Program can Help Maintain Mobility in Vulnerable Older People

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, May 29, 2014
Bookmark and Share
NIH-supported study is first to demonstrate exercise as disability prevention strategy.

A carefully structured, moderate physical activity program can reduce risk of losing the ability to walk without assistance, perhaps the single most important factor in whether vulnerable older people can maintain their independence, a study has found.

Older people who lose their mobility have higher rates of disease, disability, and death. A substantial body of research has shown the benefits of regular physical activity for a variety of populations and health conditions. But none has identified a specific intervention to prevent mobility disability.

In this large clinical study, researchers found that a regular, balanced, and moderate physical activity program followed for an average of 2.6 years reduced the risk of major mobility disability by 18 percent in an elderly, vulnerable population. Participants receiving the intervention were better able to maintain their ability to walk without assistance for 400 meters, or about a quarter of a mile, the primary measure of the study.

Results of the large clinical trial, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, Gainesville and Jacksonville, and colleagues at seven other clinics across the country, were published online on May 27, 2014, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers were supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health.

"We are gratified by these findings," said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA, which was the primary sponsor of the trial. "They show that participating in a specific, balanced program of aerobic, resistance, and flexibility training activities can have substantial positive benefits for reducing risk of mobility disability. These are actionable results that can be applied today to make a difference for many frail older people and their families."

The Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) trial included 1,635 sedentary men and women aged 70-89 at risk of disability, who were randomly assigned to a program of structured, moderate-intensity physical activity or to a health education program focused on topics related to successful aging. The diverse participants were recruited from urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Led by Marco Pahor, M.D., of the University of Florida, the study was also conducted at field sites at Northwestern University in Chicago; Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Stanford University in Palo Alto, California; Tufts University in Boston; the University of Pittsburgh; Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Data management and analysis were coordinated by Wake Forest University.

Participation in the study averaged 2.6 years. The physical activity group of 818 people gradually worked up to the goal of 150 minutes of weekly activity, including 30 minutes of brisk walking, 10 minutes of lower extremity strength training, 10 minutes of balance training, and large muscle flexibility exercises. Their programs took place at a clinic twice a week and at home three or four times a week. The 817 people in the comparison group participated in weekly health education workshops for the first 26 weeks, followed by monthly sessions thereafter. They also performed five to 10 minutes of upper body stretching and flexibility exercises in each session. Participants in both groups were assessed every six months at clinic visits.

Adherence to the program was measured by attendance at sessions and by questionnaires in which participants recorded the number of hours per week that they were physically active. In addition, participants' activity was recorded for one week during each year of the trial through an accelerometer, a small belt device that measures physical activity.

"At the beginning of this trial, all the participants were at high risk for mobility disability," said Evan Hadley, M.D., director of the NIA Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology. "At the start, they were able to walk about a quarter of a mile without a cane, walker, or help of another person. But they did have sedentary lifestyles and low scores on some standard physical tests that measure risk for disability. The study shows it is never too late for exercise to have a positive effect for a significant portion of frail older people."

Principal investigator Pahor noted that participants attended more sessions and stayed in the study longer than anticipated. He also noted that people in the intervention group were very enthusiastic about the exercise program. "When we finished the exercise program at our site, the people were so disappointed that the classes were over," he said. "We know that many of them are continuing to exercise and we are so pleased that they have kept up with this."

In 2011, NIA launched Go4Life (, a national exercise and physical activity campaign, based on previously demonstrated benefits of exercise for healthy community-dwelling adults age 50 and older. The LIFE study adds to that evidence with findings that older people vulnerable to disability can also be included among those who could reap rewards from regular physical activity. Go4Life ( emphasizes endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises.

Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 5,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

NIH Contributes to Global Effort to Prevent and Manage Lung Diseases
The large scale trial will measure health benefits of clean cookstoves.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Scientists at NIH and Emory Achieve Sustained SIV Remission in Monkeys
The finding suggest that the immune systems of these animals are controlling SIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy.
Friday, October 14, 2016
Drug to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder Shows Promise Among Drinkers With High Stress
The findings suggest that potential future studies with drugs targeting vasopressin blockade should focus on populations of people with AUD who also report high levels of stress.
Friday, September 30, 2016
Stem Cell Therapy Heals Injured Mouse Brain
A team of researchers has developed a therapeutic technique that dramatically increases the production of nerve cells in mice with stroke-induced brain damage.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Zika Vaccine Testing in Humans
The NAAID has initiated a clinical trail of a vaccine candidate for the prevention of the Zika virus infection.
Thursday, August 04, 2016
NIH Begins Yellow Fever Vaccine Trial
NIH has initiated an early-stage clinical trial of a vaccine to protect against yellow fever.
Thursday, July 28, 2016
NIH-Funded Center to Study Inefficiencies in Clinical Trials
Researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have received a major federal grant to study how multisite clinical trials of new drugs and therapies in children and adults can be conducted more rapidly and efficiently.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
PREVAIL Treatment Trial for Men with Persistent Ebola Viral RNA
The six-month study will enroll 60 to 120 EVD survivors.
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Investigational Malaria Vaccine Protects Healthy U.S. Adults
Researchers at NIH have found that the malaria vaccine protected a small number of healthy, malaria-naïve adults in the U.S. from infection for more than one year after immunization.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Study Finds Factors That May Influence Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness
Researchers at NIH have suggested that the long-held approach to predicting seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness may need to be revisited.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Submissions Open for the Cancer Moonshot Program
NCI opens online platform to submit ideas about research for Cancer Moonshot.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Promising Experimental Dengue Vaccine
A clinical trial in which volunteers were infected with dengue virus six months after receiving either an experimental dengue vaccine or a placebo injection yielded starkly contrasting results.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Eylea Outperforms Avastin for Diabetic Macular Edema with Moderate or Worse Vision Loss
NIH-funded clinical trial shows Eylea, Avastin, and Lucentis perform similarly when vision loss is mild.
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Vaginal Ring Provides Partial Protection From HIV In Large Multinational Trial
Study finds protective effect is strongest in women over age 25.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Experimental Ebola Antibody Protects Monkeys
Antibody isolated from Ebola survivor can advance to clinical trials.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Scientific News
Salford Lung Study - The First Real World Clinical Trial
In this podcast, we learn about the Salford Lung Study and its potential to revolutionize the way we assess new drugs and treatments around the world.
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Help Treat Depression
Anti-inflammatory drugs could be used to treat some cases of depression, which further implicates our immune system in mental health disorders.
NIH Contributes to Global Effort to Prevent and Manage Lung Diseases
The large scale trial will measure health benefits of clean cookstoves.
Questioning the Safety of Selenium to Combat Cancer
Research indicates the need for change in practice as selenium supplements cannot be recommended for preventing colorectal cancer.
Scientists at NIH and Emory Achieve Sustained SIV Remission in Monkeys
The finding suggest that the immune systems of these animals are controlling SIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral therapy.
Painting the Way to Tumour Imaging
Tumour paint used in emergency surgery to aid cell identification for surgeons.
Anti-Cancer Drug Uses Tumour mRNA to Identify Responders
Phase I study of novel anti-cancer drug uses tumour mRNA expression to identify patients who will respond to the drug.
Targeting Estrogen Receptor Improves Survival in Breast Cancer
Trial finds estrogen receptor degrader significantly increases progression-free survival in patients with advanced breast cancer.
Clinical Trial Finds Medicine Program Alters Blood Serum
Meditation, yoga and vegetarian diet linked to decline in plasma metabolites associated with inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk.
Alzheimer’s Linked Protein Can Be Removed From Brain Without Hindering Memory, Learning
Researchers at UTSW have found that the mice can maintain their learning and memory when virtually all ApoE is removed from the brain but kept present in the liver to filter cholesterol.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,200+ scientific videos