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Friday, September 19, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 12/2/2000

How active can some elderly be?

Elderly individuals long have been advised to make every effort to keep active.

If the admonition is followed faithfully, it probably is less expensive and more effective than taking medicine.

From observation, the medical profession has known that active people usually have fewer chronic complaints, a more optimistic outlook on life, and a tendancy to live longer.

Now these observations are confirmed in a study recently published in the American Medical Journal.

According to the study, a survey of more than 40,000 women, age 55 to 69, showed that those who regularly kept physically active two to four days a week reduced risk of premature death by 30 per cent. Women who engaged in physical activity four times weekly were rated as 38 <$eb>per cent less likely to be stricken.

Gymnasium workouts or the use of exercise machines were not considered necessary. The study listed as acceptable such physical activity as walking, cycling, golfing, bowling, or gardening.

The study's results didn't surprise me, as I've always contended that physical activity, whether from work or play, is an important factor in retaining youth and vigor.

However, men and women under 70 years of age usually have not yet experienced the devastating slowdown that strikes at a later age, making physical activity far more difficult.

I would like to see a similar study made with a group of women 69 and up. Would the same percentage of health benefit result from steady exercise, or might it be a waste of effort by those at the point of becoming feeble?

A 38 per cent reduction in death rate is impressive. Nevertheless, one is tempted to speculate that the record of greater physical activity might result in part because such individuals basically were in better physical condition at the start than those who avoided physical activities.

As individuals age, and particularly as they develop disabling or debilitating diseases, it becomes far more difficult to carry on physical activities of any type.

Those in better basic condition would find it much easier to schedule a regular program of activities than persons less happily endowed, and even without four workouts a week, they might make a much better showing than subjects lacking in basic health and strength.

Most women in their 50s and 60s should find it relatively easy to engage in the recommended activities three or four time weekly. Add another 10 or 20 years of age, and the picture changes.

A level finally is reached where the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak. Should the individual at this point exert the greatest of determination and the last shred of physical strength to try to follow the “keep active” rule?

Perhaps one of these days another study will be launched and the answer will be forthcoming.

Millie Benson is a Blade columnist.



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