Researchers looked at the exercise habits of a group of older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that kills some 120,000 people every year in the United States. All of the participants completed a 10-week exercise rehabilitation program, then were given a home exercise program to follow on their own.
Results showed that participants achieved increased cognitive, psychological and physical function after the initial 10-week exercise intervention. But the people who stopped exercising after this period lost their gains in nearly every mental and physical characteristic that the researchers had measured.
"It's solid evidence that across-the-board declines occur when people stop exercising," said Charles Emery, the study's lead author and a professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Health Psychology.
The researchers asked 28 people with COPD to first participate in a 10-week monitored exercise program. COPD, the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, is an umbrella term for two types of lung disease chronic bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD usually have symptoms of both diseases.
The first five weeks of the 10-week training session consisted of daily aerobic workouts, strength training and stretching, along with weekly educational lectures on topics related to COPD. During the second five weeks, participants continued their exercise regimens at least three times each week. Participants also attended weekly stress-reduction classes throughout the 10-week session.