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Can Exercise Improve Seniors’ Quality of Life?


A recent study published in The Lancet showed that only three hours of exercise a week is linked with improved physical function in older adults living in residential care settings and should routinely be promoted in long-term care facilities.

McKnight’s Senior Living’s recent article entitled, “Exercise significantly improves quality of life for assisted living residents: studies,” notes that another study published in the May issue of JAMDA–The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, looked into exercise guidelines and recommendations designed to maintain physical autonomy and quality of life in assisted living and other long-term care residents. The researchers found that small changes can dramatically improve the quality of life.

According to the World Health Organization, healthy aging is largely determined by the ability to preserve physical function, including functional independence for activities of daily living. Evidence supports the effectiveness of planned, structured, and repetitive physical activity to thwart age-related physical decline in older adults.

In the Lancet study, researchers saw that older adults in long-term care settings commonly experience a rapid decline in physical function, with more than half losing the ability to independently perform at least one activity of daily living within the first two years of admission.

The study reviewed 147 controlled trials with 12,059 participants living in assisted living communities, nursing homes, and other congregate housing for the elderly. The most consistent beneficial effects were seen with 110 to 225 minutes of exercise per week, and optimal benefits were realized at 170 minutes of exercise per week.

Their findings revealed that exercise enhances physical function in older adults in residential care, regardless of their functional or cognitive status. Improvements were seen in ADL performance, muscle strength, physical performance, balance, and flexibility.

In the JAMDA study, researchers determined how often assisted living and other long-term care residents should be physically active and what type of activity is most appropriate. According to the study, long-term care residents typically have more than 10 hours of sedentary time daily, excluding sleeping hours. More than 30% of residents also reported decreased physical activity levels after moving into long-term care.

“Overall, 85% of LTC residents’ time is sedentary, and very little time is dedicated to physical activity,” the study authors wrote. “Therefore, it is important to find solutions to limit sedentary time and physical inactivity in LTC facilities.”

Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living  (May 15, 2023) “Exercise significantly improves quality of life for assisted living residents: studies”

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