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 exercise. 

"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."

Home Alone

 

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 prostate cancer. 

"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."

Building Stamina

 

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."

Sharing Results

 

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, contact: 

Elizabeth Chmelo, MS 
336-713-8518 
echmelo@wakehealth.edu  

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Last Updated: 10-17-2013
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