LIFE Study Puts More Pep in His Step
Three years ago, 79-year-old Bobby Cox found a life-changing
offer in his mailbox. It was an invitation to enroll in the LIFE Study (Lifestyle Interventions and Independence
for Elders), a national eight-university research trial coordinated
by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center along with Wake Forest
University. The study's main goal is to test whether sedentary
older adults can preserve their mobility, and thereby their
independence, through a regimen of regular walking and
"Everything that letter talked about pertained to me, so I
responded," Cox said. "When I started this program, I shuffled my
feet when I got up in the morning. When I get up now, I'm ready to
go, and I don't shuffle my feet anymore."
Cox was a good candidate for the study, which is investigating
not only its primary question about preventing loss of mobility but
also other health indicators, such as reducing fall injuries and
hospitalizations for cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. Cox has
five coronary stents and takes daily medication for diabetes, which
doctors diagnosed in 2001, when they successfully treated him for
"I lost 50 pounds after finding out I was diabetic," said Cox, a
widower. "I stayed busy, but as far as walking or any kind of
exercise with weights, I wasn't doing anything when I started the
study. I want to stay healthy because I live by myself, and all
three of my children live out of state."
For the study, Cox walks about an hour for six days a week, and
he performs leg exercises with ankle weights for two or three days
a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he drives to an indoor-exercise
facility near BB&T Field called the Clinical Research Center
(CRC), operated by the Wake Forest University Department of Health
and Exercise Science. LIFE Study staff members check his blood
pressure before, during and after his exercise routine.
"I started exercising with five-pound weights, and now I'm up to 10
pounds," said Cox. "I can walk longer without stopping, and I don't
have a bit of trouble going up and down steps. I used to stagger a
little bit, especially on uneven ground. Walking more as part of
the study has really helped that."
The study, which enrolled more than 200 men and women ages 70 to
89, will conclude this fall and publish official results soon
after, said principal investigator StephenKritchevsky, PhD, a professor of Internal Medicine (Gerontology andGeriatric Medicine) and director of the J. Paul StichtCenter on Aging. However, the success of participants
like Cox is already obvious.
"We've realized that the benefits of the interventions that we test
are so profound that we've begun to develop ways to make them
available to any older adult who would seek them out," Kritchevsky
said. "One of our scientists, Dr. BarbaraNicklas, has developed weight-loss and exercise programs specifically for olderadults in the community."
Cox is sad to see the study conclude but plans to maintain his
daily walking and exercise. "It's really helped me," he said. "I've
enjoyed every minute I've been in it."
For more information about weight-lossand exercise programs for older adults,
Elizabeth Chmelo, MS