Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

December 05, 2009

Table of Contents:

  • Diabetes and Lifestyle (Delaying mortality)
  • Brain Tumor Survivors and Exercise (Improving memory)
  • Disability and Physical Activity (Can exercise prevent walking disability?)
  • An Earl's Pronouncement (Thought for the day)

Diabetes and Lifestyle

Moderate to vigorous physical activity emerged as the most protective lifestyle-related factor for reducing the risk of mortality in persons diagnosed with diabetes, according to a new study presented recently at the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montreal.

Researchers assessed the behaviors of 1,177 persons with diabetes and 15,217 without the disease. The healthy behaviors that were addressed included physical activity, good nutritional habits, not smoking, moderate alcohol use, and making an effort to maintain or lose weight over the past 12-month period.

Physical activity significantly decreased the risk of dying not only in adults with diabetes, but also in those without the disease.

Brain Tumor Survivors and Exercise

New research indicates that the advice to "take it easy" following brain radiation may be misguided. Instead, performing physical exercise after the treatment was seen to enhance memory in mice, the subjects of a study described during October's Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.

After brain radiation, the members of one group of mice were returned to their cages to interact as usual with their non-irradiated peers. Members of another group were given a running wheel after radiation to use as desired.

The mice that exercised scored just as high on a memory test as did untreated mice, while those who did not exercise scored lower.

In many brain tumor patients, short-term memory undergoes impairment following radiation therapy. With medical clearance to exercise, patients may be able to avoid that impairment.

Disability and Physical Activity

What measures can society take to prevent walking disability in older adults? A major research project is now in the works to help answer that question. Below are excerpts from an exciting news release on this subject from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has announced the award of $29.5 million in grant support over the next two years to determine whether a specific physical activity program can stave off disability in older people. The funding will begin the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders -- LIFE -- trial, the largest ever undertaken to prevent mobility disability among older people who are at risk of losing their ability to walk and to live independently in the community. The grant is being awarded to the University of Florida's Institute on Aging in Gainesville.

The first two years of the six-year, eight-site LIFE trial are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grants are part of the $5 billion that President Obama announced September 30 on the NIH campus.

"There is a lot of evidence indicating that exercise can help in preventing diseases, such as diabetes, among older people. But we do not know whether and how a specific regimen might prevent walking disability in older people who are at risk of losing mobility," said NIA director Richard J. Hodes, MD. "This research is critically important at a time when the population is aging and new interventions should be sought to keep people healthy and functioning in the community longer."

At eight sites around the country, LIFE will involve 1,600 people aged 70 to 89, who at the start of the study meet its criteria for risk of walking disability, defined as the inability to walk a quarter of a mile or four blocks. About 200 participants will be enrolled at each of the study sites.

"Limitations in walking ability compromise independence and contribute to the need for assistive care," said Evan C. Hadley, MD, director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology, whose program is overseeing the trial. "Older people with impaired walking are less likely to remain in the community, have higher rates of certain diseases and death, and experience a poorer quality of life. A successful intervention might help prevent these bad outcomes."

"We know that many older people have chronic health problems that affect their ability to walk," said Jack Guralnik, MD, PhD, chief of the NIA's Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry. "Arthritis, muscle weakness and poor balance can all affect how well and how far a person can walk. And, some older people have all of these problems. We will test the LIFE intervention in this population to see how it works in a real-world setting."

Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group will follow a structured intervention consisting of walking at moderate intensity, stretching, balance and lower extremity strength training; the control group will participate in a health education program. The participants will be followed for about three years. Researchers will evaluate whether, compared to health education, the physical activity intervention reduces the risk of major walking disability, serious fall injuries and disability in activities of daily living, and whether it improves cognitive function. They will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the intervention.

"This will be the largest randomized controlled trial to prevent major mobility disability ever conducted in older persons who are at risk of losing their physical independence," said Marco Pahor, MD, director of the University of Florida's Institute on Aging and study principal investigator. "Typically, this population is excluded from large trials, and from this perspective the LIFE study is unique."

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on research and aging, visit

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- The Nation's Medical Research Agency -- includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

An Earl's Pronouncement

Edward Stanley, the 14th Earl of Derby, was an English political leader who lived from 1799 to 1869. He made his opinion clear on the preventive potential of physical activity:

"Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."

-- Edward Stanley


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