Exercise strongly benefits older people with chronic diseases

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In recent findings from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, researchers have illuminated the path for older individuals grappling with chronic conditions or at risk of such diseases, demonstrating that it’s never too late to start exercising.

Published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, this study brings a beacon of hope, showing that physical activity can be both beneficial and safe for seniors aged between 70 and 85 years, even those who have previously led sedentary lives.

Delving into the realm of fitness and chronic diseases, the study embarked on a year-long journey with a group of older participants.

Through a multicomponent exercise intervention, it was observed that not only did physical activity levels increase among the participants, but significant improvements were also seen in aerobic endurance, muscle strength, and power.

This uplift in fitness was achieved despite the backdrop of chronic diseases, proving that age and health conditions need not be barriers to becoming more physically active.

Interestingly, the study revealed that chronic diseases and their risk factors were responsible for only a minor fraction of the differences in physical activity and fitness levels among participants at the beginning.

Even more encouraging was the finding that these conditions had a negligible impact on the positive changes experienced during the exercise program.

This insight, according to postdoctoral researcher Tiina Savikangas, underscores the minimal influence of multimorbidity on the advantages garnered from regular exercise.

The concept of multimorbidity, typically defined as the coexistence of two or more chronic diseases or their risk factors in an individual, was explored in a novel manner in this study.

By evaluating chronic diseases and their risk factors as a cluster, the research team could assess not just the collective impact of these conditions but also the distinct effects of individual diseases and risk factors on physical activity and fitness.

The findings were promising, showing that most diseases did not significantly hinder the progress in physical activity or fitness domains throughout the study period.

For older adults, the message is clear: physical activity is crucial for maintaining health and functional ability, irrespective of chronic conditions. Official guidelines advocate for seniors over 65 to engage in physical activities tailored to their health and capabilities.

Yet, embarking on an exercise regimen should be approached with caution, especially for those with chronic conditions. It’s advisable to undergo a health examination before starting and to ensure the exercise program is suited to one’s health status and fitness level.

The study’s safety validation of its strength, endurance, and balance training program for older adults signifies a step forward in promoting exercise among seniors.

It highlights the importance of seeking advice from healthcare professionals or local sports advisory services before beginning an exercise journey.

In the quest for better health and functional capacity, the study echoes a universal truth: engaging in physical activity is beneficial for everyone, opening the door to a more active and fulfilling lifestyle for seniors, regardless of their health challenges.

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The research findings can be found in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity.

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