Researchers in a 13-year study that followed over 5,000 midlife adults found that a subject’s physical ability in midlife provided clues to whether they survived the next decade. Subjects self-reported their physical ability for routine tasks such as grip strength, maintaining balance while standing and chair rise rate (the speed at which an individual goes from sitting to standing). Those whose physical capabilities ranked low exhibited a poorer chance of survival while those that spent a greater amount of time in light intensity physical activity each day were linked to a reduced risk of developing disabilities.
The study is part of a longer-term study that has tracked the health of over 5,000 people since their birth. When participants reached age 53, researchers assessed the three common measures of physical capability: grip strength, chair rise speed and standing balance time. During the next 13 years, 177 study participants died. Researchers found those with lower physical capability scores tended to have lower socioeconomic position, unhealthier lifestyles and higher self-reported prevalence of diabetes, heart disease and severe respiratory symptoms when compared to those who scored higher.
In a related study, a team of U.S. researchers examined whether the time spent doing light intensity physical activity reduces the risk of developing disability and disability progression.
That study looked at over 1,500 men and women between the ages of 49 and 83 who were free of disability but either had knee osteoarthritis or were at high risk of developing it. The results showed a significant relationship between greater time spent doing light activity and a reduced risk of development or progression of disability.
What both studies found was that in terms of fending off disability, even a little bit of physical activity could be beneficial in avoiding disability and extending life.