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Inactivity has greater health impact on frail older adults: study

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Halifax, Nova Scotia – A sedentary lifestyle puts frail older adults at a higher risk of death than it does for younger people who have similar levels of inactivity, according to a study from Dalhousie University and University College London.

Researchers examined data for 3,141 adults 50 and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2004 and 2005 to 2006. Frailty was defined by the number of health issues each person reported. The participants wore activity trackers, and the data from those was evaluated by researchers using a 46-item frailty index. Participants were tracked until Dec. 31, 2011, or until their death.

Researchers found that participants who recorded prolonged sitting times but low frailty index scores did not show an increased risk of death. However, the risk climbed for frail adults who did not log a weekly recommendation of at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity.

“Even something as simple as getting up and walking around the house with a walker or cane can benefit frailer people,” lead study author Olga Theou, Ph.D., of the Dalhousie University Division of Geriatric Medicine, said in an Aug. 21 press release.

The study was published online Aug. 21 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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