Public Release: 

Light activity measured with fitness tracker linked to lower mortality in older women

American Geriatrics Society

Experts say that a lack of physical activity leads to age-related weakness and poor health in older adults. Official guidelines suggest that healthy older adults spend at least 2.5 hours every week doing moderate activity (such as brisk walking), or at least 1.25 hours per week doing vigorous exercise (such as jogging or running).

Unfortunately, many older adults are not physically able to perform either moderate or vigorous intensity exercise. Researchers created a study to learn more about how much exercise older adults are able to perform, and how that exercise affects their health.

The research team studied 6,489 female participants aged 63 to 99 years old. The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The participants agreed to take in-home exams, answer health questionnaires, and wear accelerometers (devices similar to fitness trackers). The participants also kept sleep logs.

The study was conducted between 2012 and 2013. The researchers reviewed death certificates as of September 2016 to learn how many participants had died.

At the beginning of the study, most participants were in their late 70s and most were considered overweight according to BMI standards (a ratio comparing height to weight). Nearly 30 percent were considered obese.

Most participants scored 8.2 out of a possible 12 points on physical function assessments. Based on accelerometer measurements of the participants:

  • 1 percent performed "low" light-intensity physical activity
  • 29 percent performed "high" light-intensity physical activity
  • 15 percent performed moderate to vigorous physical activity

After examining the deaths in the women according to their activity levels, the researchers learned that older women with higher levels of physical activity were less likely to die than women with lower levels of physical activity, no matter the cause of death.

The researchers concluded that their findings support encouraging older women to increase the amount of time they spend every day in light-intensity activity, and reduce the amount of time spent sitting.

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This summary is from "Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Mortality in Women Aged 63 to 99". It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Michael J. LaMonte, PhD, MPH; David M. Buchner, MD, MPH; Eileen Rillamas-Sun, PhD; Chongzhi Di, PhD; Kelley R. Evenson, PhD, MS; John Bellettiere, PhD, MPH; Cora E. Lewis, MD, MSPH; I-Min Lee, MD, ScD; Lesly F. Tinker, PhD; Rebecca Seguin, PhD; Oleg Zaslovsky, PhD; Charles B. Eaton, MD, MS; Marcia L. Stefanick, PhD; and Andrea Z. LaCroix, PhD, MPH.

About the Health in Aging Foundation

This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit http://www.HealthinAgingFoundation.org.

About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Included in more than 9,000 library collections around the world, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) highlights emerging insights on principles of aging, approaches to older patients, geriatric syndromes, geriatric psychiatry, and geriatric diseases and disorders. First published in 1953, JAGS is now one of the oldest and most impactful publications on gerontology and geriatrics, according to ISI Journal Citation Reports®. Visit wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/JGS for more details.

About the American Geriatrics Society

Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.

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