The best way to age healthily can't be found in a face cream, pill bottle, or even the fountain of youth itself. The simplest way to age well requires only a pair of walking shoes, researchers say.
Findings from the longest-running clinical trial on the relationship between physical activity and aging were revealed at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, naming exercise as one of the best ways to prevent loss of mobility that can accompany old age. A study of 1,635 sedentary adults in their 70s and 80s found that just about 20 minutes of brisk walking everyday can keep you from losing mobility in older age.
The participants were split into two groups over the course of two years, one doing simple stretching exercises and taking a health course, while the other group took up walking 150 minutes per week and doing strength and balance training. Though both groups were able to walk just a quarter mile under 15 minutes at the start of the study, the walking group was nearly 20 percent more likely to be able to walk with age than those who didn't exercise. Walking also reduced the risk of mobility loss by nearly 30 percent.
"Doctors have suspected that maintaining or starting physical activity is important in promoting good health as we age. But until this study, we didn't have the proof necessary to say that daily exercise, sustained over several years, truly can prevent loss of mobility," lead researcher Anne Newman of the University of Pittsburgh's Pitt Graduate School of Public Health said in a release. Researchers define loss of mobility as not being able to walk about a quarter of a mile, or approximately the distance from a parked car to a grocery store.
Surveys have found that loss of mobility in older age is one of the biggest fears for both aging men and women. In fact, one British survey found people fear loss of independence in old age more than death. Loss of mobility can mean depending on others for help in performing daily tasks, and also the inability to go out and socialize and participate in activities as you normally would.
Just one more reason to put on those gym shoes and get moving.