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Disability & Death Rate

By R.C. Goode

Life expectancy has increased considerably in the last decade. Information from research studies such as the Harvard Longitudinal Study, indicate that we can expect to live to 85 years when one is congruent with the “predictors.” Predictors include not becoming addicted to alcohol, not smoking, performing some exercise, having a stable marriage and having developed mature coping mechanisms. The expectancy of reaching 85 years is a consequence of behavioural change and in some cases, medical therapies. As the life expectancy is increasing, one concern is about the quality of life. Physical activity appears to improve the quality of life as we age with only a brief period of hospitalization prior to demise. This description contrasts with those who are sedentary and experience a diminished quality of life, a prolonged hospitalization and a shortened life span. Disability is defined as inability to get up in the morning, dress, groom, perform hygienic habits, walk, reach, grip and maintain daily routines.

At Stanford University , Professor Chakravarty and colleagues followed a group of 254 active adults and a control group of 156 sedentary adults. The mean age of both groups, 59 years. Participants commenced the program in 1984, and were78 yrs of age in 2005. They had been running or performing some exercise (biking, aerobic dance and or swimming) for 21 years (see “Google” “Talk Test Robert Goode”).

The time taken to reach a level of disability (not able to perform well) was significantly longer by about 9 years for the active older adults as compared to about 3 years for the sedentary controls. Of the original sedentary control group 34% had died in 2005, compared to 15% of the active older adults.

The authors observed that long-term running and other vigorous exercise in older adults is correlated with less disability and lower death rates due to cardiovascular problems and other causes such as cancer and disorders of the nervous system. The Stanford group recommends adults pursue moderate to vigorous activity programs throughout life. This appears to increase quality and length of life as well as defer and decrease health care costs.

Chakravarty, E.F., Hubert, H.B., Vijaya, B.L. and Fries, J.F. Reduced Disability and Mortality Among Aging Runners, a 21-year Longitudinal Study, Arch Intern Med. 2008; 168(15):1638 – 1646.

The articles, on the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada website, are presented with the understanding that the Foundation is providing information only and not rendering medical advise. Please check with your family physician, specialist or health care professional before implementing any of the ideas expressed in these articles.

 
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