Health & wellness

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Sitting may raise disability risk in older Americans

Prolonged sitting for adults aged 60 or older as much as doubles their risk for physical disabilities, according to a study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

The researchers looked at data for more than 2,000 healthy adults 60 and older who participated in the government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. During the 2002 to 2005 study period, the participants wore accelerometers to measure their activity level while they were awake for one week.

Only 6 percent of participants met the government’s physical activity guidelines, which recommend at least 2½ hours weekly of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking. Nearly 4 percent of the participants reported having difficulty in daily activities such as walking, eating, and bathing. Regardless of the amount of daily physical activity, each hour participants spent sedentary raised their risk for these disabilities by 50 percent.


Adults within the age group spend on average two-thirds of daytime hours — about nine hours — being sedentary, the researchers wrote. The finding suggests that older Americans should find ways to replace their sitting time with as much physical activity as possible.

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BOTTOM LINE: Prolonged sitting for adults aged 60 or older as much as doubles their risk for disabilities.

CAUTIONS: The study does not prove a cause and effect relationship between sedentary behavior and disabilities. Part of the study relied on self-reports of participants’ level of disability, which are not always accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of Physical Activity & Health, Feb. 19

In-home exercise program may aid hip fracture recovery

Home exercise programs may help improve recovery for hip fracture patients who have already undergone physical therapy, Boston University researchers reported last week.


The study looked at 232 adults whose average age was 78 and who had completed standard rehabilitation after a hip fracture. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to either a six-month home exercise program performed with a physical therapist and independently, while the other half took a telephone-based nutrition class. The at-home exercises mimicked daily tasks such as standing on a chair to reach high places and climbing stairs. The exercise group also set physical goals on a calendar, and in one session, a physical therapist showed the participants a video addressing their fear of falling.

After six months, patients in the in-home program showed significant improvement in daily physical function and balance compared with those who had gone through the nutrition class, and their improvement even extended three months after.

BOTTOM LINE: Home exercise programs may help improve recovery for hip fracture patients who have completed physical therapy

CAUTIONS: The study is a preliminary look at the efficacy of the exercise program, which is not yet available to the general population.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 19