Exercise and Lifestyle for Older Adults Recent Research

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This article was edited and updated on April 19, 2017.

Exercise plus music reduces anxiety, improves cognition

Listening to piano music may improve cognitive function and reduce anxiety.

Fifty-five individuals — who were 65 or older and had an increased risk of falling — were asked to participate in a one-hour per week exercise class that was accompanied by piano music. 2

Sixty-eight individuals — who were also 65 or older and had an increased risk of falling — were asked to keep their usual habits; this group, then, became the control group.

The researchers concluded: "After six months, participants in the exercise group showed improved levels of cognitive function and decreased levels of anxiety when compared with the control group."

SOURCE: Age and Ageing, 43(2):196-200 (March 2014) For the abstract, click here.

At older ages, it’s hard to let go of possessions

Sometimes we may have to let go of some of our possessions, but this is hard for many people to do.

How easy is it for you to toss out things you have had for many years? This survey — titled the "Health and Retirement Study" — asked over 1800 people who were 50 years of age and older to answer some questions regarding the relinquishing of personal possessions.

The results indicate that at least half of us in our 50's through our 80's feel we have too many possessions:

However, despite the belief that we have "too much," the results also indicate that older adults don't spend much time culling:

The researchers felt that keeping possessions seemed to be related to age, not to other factors such as health.

"The authors suggested that holding on to material possessions may bring a sense of familiarity and comfort to individuals. On the other hand, retaining possessions may become a barrier to making changes in their lives and in their homes."

SOURCE: Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, online (February 11, 2014) doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbu003 For the abstract and link to full text, click here.

More muscle mass at older ages fends off premature death

Body weight may NOT be the best way to determine general health and longevity.

For many years, body weight and body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by height in metres) have often been used as measurements of health. Since obesity has been inconsistently associated with mortality — and muscle and fat have different metabolic properties — researchers wondered if muscle mass (instead of body mass) might be associated with a lower risk of premature death.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1988, researchers attempted to find the answer. This survey looked at 3,659 individuals — men (55 or older) and women (65 or older).

In the original survey in 1988, body composition measurements had been used to calculate a muscle mass index (amount of muscle relative to height). A follow-up of the NHANES survey occurred in 2004, so the researchers for this study used the data from both surveys and determined how many people had died since 1988.

The researchers discovered that, no matter the cause, mortality was significantly lower in the people with the highest levels on the muscle mass index compared to individuals with the lowest levels on the muscle mass index.

“In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” said co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, online (February 20, 2014). For the abstract, click here.

Physical activity associated with memory function

More research suggests that physical activity and cognitive function go hand-in-hand.

Thirty people diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease and seventeen individuals with mild cognitive impairment were assessed for cognitive function, memory and levels of physical activity.

After measurement of their walking speed, they were also categorized as walking at slow or normal speed.

People in the normal walking speed group were younger and had significantly better scores in physical performance compared to the slower walking group.

The authors concluded that “lower physical activities could be a risk factor for cognitive decline, and that cognitive function in the elderly whose motor function and cognitive function are declining can be improved by increasing the amount of physical activity.”

SOURCE: Geriatrics & Gerontology International, online (March 20, 2014) doi:10.1111/ggi.12159. For the abstract, click here.

Other articles of interest:

You may also wish to look at the other articles in this series:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. Although small, this study supports other research that has been done with exercise and piano music.