Higher intensity physical activity reduces likelihood of fatigue in healthy older adults

Physical activity interventions that emphasize vigorous exercise may help high-functioning older adults maintain low fatigability, according to data presented at the American Geriatrics Society Annual Scientific Meeting.

“Fatigability has been identified as a marker of mobility decline in older adults,” A. R. Peterson, from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and colleagues wrote. “Few studies have examined the relationship between different types and intensities of physical activity and fatigability in physically-able, older adults.”

Peterson and colleagues examined the cross-sectional and longitudinal association between regular walking, brisk walking and vigorous exercise and perceived fatigability in 10-minute increments. Fatigability was measured after a patient walked on a treadmill for 5 minutes at 1.5 mph using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The researchers enrolled 664 participants aged between 60 and 89 years from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (29% black, 51% women). Individuals who were unable to complete a 400-m walk without a walking aid, reported difficulty walking a quarter of a mile or had a gait speed of less than 0.67 m/s were excluded.

After adjusting for age, sex and race, the cross-sectional analysis showed that fatigability was independently associated with both vigorous exercise and brisk walking. Each additional 10 minutes per week of vigorous exercise was associated with a .03 lower RPE (P < .001). Similarly, each additional 10 minutes per week of brisk walking was associated with a .02 lower RPE (P = .023). After adjusting for depressive symptoms, lower extremity pain, balance, and falls, only vigorous exercise continued to be associated with lower fatigability (P < .001). In the longitudinal analysis adjusted for baseline fatigability, follow-up time (mean = 2.4 years), age, sex, race, each additional 10 minutes per week of vigorous exercise was associated with a .01 lower RPE (P = .035). Neither brisk walking nor regular walking were associated with fatigability over time.

“Older adults aged 60 to 89 may benefit from increasing the intensity of their physical activity in order to maintain low fatigability,” Peterson and colleagues concluded. “Thus, physical activity interventions should emphasize vigorous exercise in healthy older adults as brisk walking and moderate walking are not sufficient to promote favorable fatigability levels.” – by Alaina Tedesco

Reference:

Peterson AR, et al. “Intensity of physical activity and fatigability in high-functioning older adults.” Presented at: American Geriatrics Society Annual Scientific Meeting; May 18-20, 2017; San Antonio.

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