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Exercise May Reduce Disability in Older Adults

Exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing disability that affects activities of daily living (ADL) in older adults and the person''s ability to remain independent. These findings of a study conducted by researchers at the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center are reported in the October 22, 2001 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. Although previous studies have documented physiological and physical benefits of exercise, no earlier trial has shown that exercise can really prevent the onset of a clinically important outcome such as ADL disability.

The 250 participants in the 18-month study were 60 years of age or older with osteoarthritis of the knee, and free of ADL disability when the study began. Knee osteoarthritis is a leading cause of disability. Participants were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise program (walking program), a resistance exercise program (muscle exercise with weights), or an attention control group (no exercise).

The results of the study show the cumulative incidence of ADL disability was lower in both exercise groups than the attention control group.

As life expectancy lengthens and the population ages, ADL disability in older persons will increasingly affect quality of life and increase the need for medical and non-medical interventions.

"There is an urgent need to develop effective interventions that may increase the years of life spent without disability and dependency," said Brenda Penninx, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study. "Our study suggests that a physical exercise program may be an effective strategy for increasing the active life expectancy of older adults."

"Dr. Penninx'' study indicates the important role exercise can play in maintaining independence and reducing disabilities as people age," said Stanley Slater, M.D., deputy associate director of the National Institute on Aging''s Geriatric Program.

While the results of this study suggest that exercise prevents disability in initially nondisabled older persons with knee osteoarthritis, future studies are needed to confirm the effect of exercise in the general older population.

The study was supported by the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center of Wake Forest University, through grant P60AG10484-01 from the National Institute on Aging.

### Contact: Jonnie Rohrer, 336-726-6972 or Mark Wright, 336-716-4587.

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