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Light Physical Activity can Reduce Risk of Disability

Update Date: May 01, 2014 11:02 AM EDT

Disability can greatly affect one's life because it makes everyday tasks, such as dressing or taking a shower, difficult and in some cases, impossible. Disability checks account for one in every four dollars spent on health care. In a new study, researchers identified simple ways that could help people reduce their risk of disability. According to the researchers, performing light physical activity everyday, such as housecleaning or walking around, can stave off disability.

"The bottom line is to stay as active as possible. Even spending time in light activity will be beneficial," said lead author Dorothy Dunlop, a professor with the Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

For this study, the researchers recruited nearly 1,700 adults between the ages of 45 and 79. The participants were taken from a long-term osteoarthritis study. Even though they did not a disability, they all had an elevated risk due to their knee arthritis. The researchers gave the participants an accelerometer that was worn around their hips during waking hours. The accelerometer helped measure daily movements over the time span of two years.

During the follow-up portion of the study, the researchers found that people who performed light physical activity were anywhere from one-third to one-half less likely to have a disability. Daily light physical activity also helped slow down the progression of any disability that developed. The researchers noted that moderate-intensity exercise yielded even more beneficial results.

"Our findings provide encouragement for adults who may not be candidates to increase physical activity intensity due to health limitations," Dunlop said reported by WebMD. "Even among those who did almost no moderate activity, the more light activity they did, the less likely they were to develop disability."

The study, "Relation of physical activity time to incident disability in community dwelling adults with or at risk of knee arthritis: prospective cohort study," was published in the British Medical Journal.

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