Get Moving for a Healthier, Happier Old Age

Get Moving for a Healthier, Happier Old Age

The Couch Potato Life: How Sedentary Behavior Affects Quality of Life in Older Adults

Older Adults on Beach

We all know that physical activity is good for our health, but a new study adds an important twist: it can significantly impact the quality of life, especially in older adults. The research suggests that becoming more sedentary as we age can have a negative effect on both our mental and physical well-being. So, it’s time to get off that couch and start moving!

In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge, more than 1,400 adults age 60 and above were tracked to examine the relationship between physical activity levels, sedentary behavior, and quality of life. The findings were astonishing: reduced physical activity and increased sitting time were associated with a poorer quality of life in later years. This is a vital discovery, as previous research has shown that a decline in quality of life also increases the risk of hospitalization and premature death.

According to Dr. Dharani Yerrakalva, the lead author of the study, physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining quality of life in older adults. “More physical activity reduces pain in common conditions such as osteoarthritis,” she explains. “Being more physically active improves muscle strength, which enables older adults to continue caring for themselves. Furthermore, regular activity can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are strongly linked to quality of life.”

The study, which included 1,433 English adults originally enrolled in a cancer study, evaluated their activity routines and measured quality of life based on various aspects such as mobility, self-care, pain levels, and mood. The results showed that even a 15-minute decrease in physical activity was associated with a significant decline in quality of life. Additionally, every extra 15 minutes spent sitting was linked to a decrease in quality of life scores.

On the bright side, the study also revealed a simple solution: increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior can lead to a higher quality of life. Researchers discovered that seniors who augmented their activity levels while cutting down on couch potato time experienced an improvement in their quality of life.

Importantly, the study found that engaging in relatively light activities, such as slow walking, was already beneficial. However, more moderate-to-vigorous exercises, like brisk walking, yielded the most noticeable results. Therefore, it’s time to dust off your walking shoes and get moving!

It’s essential to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions. Connie Diekman, a food and nutrition consultant and former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, emphasizes the importance of seeking medical advice. “Make sure you check with your physician to learn if there are any limitations to activity due to your personal health status,” Diekman advises.

Diekman suggests starting slowly by incorporating just five minutes of activity a day, gradually building up to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. If achieving the recommended weekly minutes seems challenging, remember that any amount of physical activity is better than none.

Ultimately, the findings of this study highlight the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle as we age. Regular physical activity not only enhances our overall well-being, but it also improves our mental and physical health. So, let’s leave the couch behind and embark on a journey towards a happier and healthier future!

Sources: – Dharani Yerrakalva, MBBS, MPhil, National Institute for Health and Care Research Doctoral Fellow, School of Clinical Medicine, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, U.K. – Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, LD, FADA, FAND, Food and Nutrition Consultant and Former President, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, June 22, 2023