Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Active Seniors Benefit With Health, Longer Lives

Dr. Manini says seniors should work activity into their lifestyle

It's been an old wive's tale for the longest time, but apparently there is new evidence that proves it's true. This Washington Post story is about a new study found senior citizens who remain active later in life tend to be healthier and live longer than those who slow down or even cease doing any physical activities at all.

Lead researcher Dr. Todd M. Manini, from the Bethesda, MD-based National Institute on Aging, observed 302 adults between the ages of 70 to 82 years old after providing them with water containing heavy oxygen and hydrogen isotopes to drink so it would be absorbed into their tissues and released as they expended energy during the study.

As you know from elementary school science class, oxygen is converted into carbon dioxide when the body is active and so Dr. Manini would be able to visually see what impact various levels of activity would have on the study participants. The more active the person was, the less labeled oxygen there would be while the less active the person was, the more labeled oxygen there should be.

The study participants were split into three distinct activity groups: active, midrange active, and least active.

Each of the people in the study were measured for their labeled oxygen levels every two weeks during the six-year study which began in 1998 and concluded earlier this year where Dr. Manini discovered something incredible regarding the group that was most active: they had better health and lived longer than the other groups.

Here was the mortality rate at the end of the study:

Most active group - 12 percent died
Midrange active group - 18 percent died
Least active group - 25 percent died

"Simply expending energy through any activity may influence survival in older adults," the report concluded.

Interestingly, Dr. Manini found that the health and longevity from activity didn't necessarily need to come from "volitional exercise," such as on a treadmill at the gym, but could also be fit into a senior citizens' "usual daily activities that expend energy" such as housework and gardening. Basically, anything that causes the body to use energy will provide this benefit to seniors as they age.

This study was published in the July 12, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

My wife's Grandpa Jim stayed very active up until his death at the age of 83 a couple of years ago. In fact, he was still working full-time with his wife at their family-owned flower shop delivering to customers on a daily basis, which kept him moving all day long. He also enjoyed working out in his yard gardening and cutting his grass with one of those old-timey non-motor grass cutters.

Jim was a horse of a man who refused to allow his age to stand in the way of his health and vitality. Only an untimely misdiagnosis about an internal bleeding problem he was experiencing took this remarkable man away from us before his time. I truly believe his commitment to remaining active would have kept him alive well into his 90s. In fact, this previous study found that regular exercise actually can extend the length of your life. That should be motivation enough to get active, right?

This specific study by Dr. Manini didn't address the issue of obesity, but I believe it certainly plays a role in longevity as well. Being a senior citizen is not a good enough excuse for refusing to do something about your weight. You still need to take care of yourself by eating right and getting the right amount of activity to stay around for several more years than expected. Just ask this 66-year-old woman who lost 185 pounds how important it is to lose weight and stay active!

Dr. Manini's study has confirmed what most of us already knew. While we all look forward to that glorious day in the future when we can retire from the rigors of working our entire adult lives, the fact is you will need to KEEP ON being active well into your 70s, 80s, and 90s to extend the time the good Lord allows you to be with your family. Take good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and always squeeze in an activity here and there to make sure you are around for as long as possible.

You can e-mail Dr. Todd Manini about his study at


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