Study: Regular Exercise Program Can Help Delay Aging

Physical Therapists Agree with Findings of Recent Study Published in British Journal of Sports Medicine Showing Long-Lasting Effects of Daily Exercise 

ALEXANDRIA, VA, June 9, 2008 — A recent study showing that maintaining aerobic fitness through middle age could delay biological aging by 12 years underscores the benefits of incorporating even a modest exercise program into one's daily routine, emphasizes the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (March 11, 2008), shows aerobic exercise improves the body's oxygen consumption and its ability to generate energy, which, in turn, leads to the slowing and possible reversal of the inevitable decline of our body's function.

"If we, as a population, walked briskly 30 minutes a day, healthcare as we know it would change drastically in the United States," said physical therapist Steven Tepper, PT, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at, among others, the University of Maryland and the University of Delaware.

"This study is particularly relevant because it shows a direct correlation between regular exercise and longer life expectancy," said Dr. Tepper, who has long studied the effects of 30 minutes of daily brisk walking or equivalent activity. He says that many benefits of daily exercise include the reduced risk of several life-threatening diseases, including:

  • Cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries due to fibrous fatty plaque build-up)
  • Type 2 diabetes, even in persons at high risk
  • Stroke
  • Breast Cancer
  • Lower resting blood pressure
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression among elderly adults

The British Journal of Sports Medicine study concluded that a regular exercise program can slow or reverse the loss of aerobic fitness -- typical of behavior observed in middle-aged and retirement aged people -- reducing the individual's biological age and prolonging independence.

Marilyn Moffat, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, CSCS, a professor of physical therapy at New York University and co-author with Carole B Lewis of "Age-Defying Fitness," concurs: "Put simply, a regular routine of moderate exercise has incredibly positive effects on both physical and mental well-being and increases one's quality of life." Dr. Moffat conducts workshops for physical therapists around the world, demonstrating how patients with chronic health problems can improve their health by learning how to exercise safely.

Drs Moffat and Tepper add that, as we age, fat mass increases and aerobic capacity and muscle mass decrease in sedentary individuals, therefore less oxygen is delivered to key organs, thus making daily exercise more difficult. Routine daily activity seems to reverse the decline and is a vital component to living longer. Both caution, however, that people just starting an exercise program later in life should first be evaluated by a physical therapist, who can recommend exercises that are appropriate and safe, as well as educate patients for signs of trouble.

For example, certain patients can benefit from adding some upper body strength training to their exercise regime, Dr Moffat says. She also recommends adding balance training to the exercise mix. "I have seen patients as young as 40 with balance problems, and it is particularly important to challenge one's balance at a young age to offset problems later in life." Both Drs Moffat and Tepper agree that, what may be good for one individual may be detrimental to another, and that is where the expertise of a physical therapist becomes essential.

Although Dr Tepper has been an advocate of daily brisk walking to delay aging, he also recommends leisure activities such as swimming and gardening. "Any activity is better than none, but those just starting out need to remember to proceed slowly," he concludes.

A more complete list of the benefits of daily brisk walking can be found at www.moveforwardpt.com.

Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and manage individuals of all ages, from newborns to elders, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.

The American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org) is a national organization representing physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and students nationwide. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical therapist education, practice, and research. Consumers can visit www.findapt.us to find a physical therapist in their area, as well as www.moveforwardpt.com for physical therapy news and information.

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