Exercise and prevention of disability in daily living.




Arch Intern Med

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Aging
Professional Data: Aging


Disability in older adults is steadily declining. From 1982 to 1999, there has been a 6.5% drop in people over the age of 65 years that experience disabilities.1 Since these disabilities contribute to the difficulties of performing everyday tasks researchers are constantly trying to find ways to make life a little easier for those older citizens. A recent study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concerning the prevention of disability in activities of daily living (ADL). Although numerous studies have been published regarding positive effects of physical exercise, none have provided an outcome that it could perhaps prevent disability. This study was designed to examine the possibility of exercise in deterrence of ADL disability.

A randomized, single blind, controlled study was conducted with participants assigned to an aerobic exercise program, resistance exercise program, or a control group. The 250 individuals involved were all over the age of 60, and were ADL disability free. The participants, who suffered from osteoarthritis of the knee were asked to perform tasks such as getting from a bed to a chair, eating, dressing, using the toilet, or bathing. The outcome of these tasks was recorded over an 18-month follow-up. The results showed that ADL disability incident was lower in the exercise groups, (37.1%) than the control group (52.5%). The researchers adjusted the results for the demographics as well as the baseline physical function. The lowest incident for ADL disability was found in the individuals with the highest compliance to exercise. The authors concluded, "Aerobic and resistance exercise may reduce the incidence of ADL disability in older persons with knee osteoarthritis. Exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing ADL disability and, consequently, may prolong older persons' autonomy."2

Although further studies are necessary to prove this result, it is promising that physical activity can have such beneficial effects on aging. In addition to decreasing disability, exercise can also help to relieve stress and provide other health benefits as well.


1. National Institute of Health. Dramatic Decline in Disability Continues for Older Americans. May 2001.
2. Phennix B, et al. Physical Exercise and the Prevention of Disability in Activities of Daily Living in Older Persons With Osteoarthritis. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161:2309-2316.