July 20, 2007 / 2:29 AM / 12 years ago

High-intensity walking beneficial for elderly

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High-intensity walking helps elderly adults keep their blood pressure in check, maintain thigh muscle strength, and increase their exercise capacity, according to results of a study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“The rapid growth in the elderly population in many countries has highlighted the importance of exercise training to decrease the likelihood of disability and age-associated disease, promote independence, and enhance quality of life,” Dr. Hiroshi Nose and colleagues from Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine, Matsumoto, Japan, write.

Moderately paced walking (about 6 kilometers or 3.7 miles per hour) is thought to protect against disability and is recommended for middle-aged and older people. However, such walking may not be intense enough to improve aerobic exercise capacity.

To address this issue, the researchers randomly assigned 60 older men and 186 older women to one of three groups: no walking training, moderate-intensity walking training, and high-intensity walking training. The groups were studied for 5 months.

Patients who engaged in high-intensity walking, which included several short intervals of high-intensity walking interspersed with intervals of low-intensity walking, showed greater improvements in blood pressure, thigh muscle strength, and exercise capacity than did patients in the other groups.

The results provide further support for the adoption of an active lifestyle, Dr. James Levine, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, comments in an accompanying editorial. “The longer a person is active, the better, regardless of what form the activity takes.”

“We are designed to walk all day long, and (this) article suggests that we should,” Levine concludes.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, July 2007.

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