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Physical activity key to maintaining independence say University of Pittsburgh researchers

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 24 Physical activity plays a significant role in maintaining functional ability later in life, according to a study completed by University of Pittsburgh researchers. The study, which is the first long-term prospective study to prove the link between physical activity and function, appears in today's edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study followed 171 post-menopausal women who, from 1982 to 1985, were enrolled in a study to determine the effects of a regular walking routine on health. In 1985, 1995 and 1999 their physical activity levels were assessed through self-reporting and performance-based measures. Researchers found that women who were physically active on a regular basis during this 14-year time span had a noticeably higher level of functional status than women who were inconsistently active or were inactive. This association was maintained even after adjusting for health status.

"Functional status relates directly to what people can do for themselves, so having a high functional status means the person is more likely to be able to live independently," said Jennifer S. Brach, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy, University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. "Regular physical activity, which can be as simple as walking, not only helps people to live longer and healthier, it helps them to live with fewer limitations and a better quality of life. With people living longer, this emphasizes that everyone, young and old alike, should be physically active."

Activity levels were measured at all three intervals through a physical activity questionnaire that measured physical activity through sports/leisure activities and number of blocks walked. In 1985, physical activity was objectively measured using a Large Scale Integrated Monitor; in 1999, it was measured using a pedometer.

In 1999, functional status was measured through self-report and performance-based measures.
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Contact: Jocelyn Uhl
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
24-Nov-2003


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