It only takes 1 hour a week of activity to ward off disability: study

Older adults with pain in their hips or legs can ward off disability by performing physical activity for as little as one hour a week, according to a study published Monday.

The study from researchers at Northwestern Medicine found that less than 10 minutes a day of moderate physical activity was enough to help older adults avoid limitations to their movement.

Researchers at Northwestern analyzed data from more than 1,500 adults in the Osteoarthritis Initiative from four areas: Baltimore; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; and Pawtucket, Rhode Island. All the adults had pain from osteoarthritis in lower-extremity joints such as the hips, knees, and ankles, but weren’t disabled.

The goal of the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was to determine whether there was a minimum amount of activity older adults could enjoy to see some health benefits.

“Even though it’s well known physical activity can help prevent disability, for many people, they’re just inactive, and it’s daunting to get started,” said Dorothy Dunlop, lead author of the study and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in an interview with USA TODAY.

More: How to get fit and stay in shape in the new year

Monitoring participants using accelerometers – or devices that measure activity – researchers found older adults who completed one hour a week of moderate activity had an 85 percent lower risk of a mobility disability, defined as less than one meter per second. Adults also lowered their risk of getting a movement disability affecting daily routines such as getting dressed or walking across a room, said the study.

Federal guidelines advise older adults get at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity. Dunlop said she hoped results of the study would motivate older adults who are inactive.

“The more active you are, the more health benefits you get,” she said. “But if you can start to do at least 10 minutes a day of moderate activity, that may help you hold on to your abilities to stay independent.”

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23


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