Every step counts

Every step counts

Study shows that everyday activity helps keep seniors healthy

By Czerne M. Reid

Todd Manini/Photo by Jesse S. Jones

Reaching over to make the bed or bending to get a grocery bag might not be the typical idea of being physically active. But all those everyday movements add up and could contribute to health benefits, especially among older adults — even if it’s not clear just how much energy seniors are exerting.

Previous research has been mostly based on error-prone self-reports of physical activity rather than actual measurements. Now, UF researchers and colleagues have used laboratory-based methods to objectively measure the amount of energy older adults use up as they go about their daily activities, and linked that to cognitive performance.

The researchers found that older adults who expend relatively high amounts of energy in their daily activities are substantially less likely to become cognitively impaired than those who exert less energy. The findings were published in the July 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“There are millions and millions of people who don’t exercise, but we’re beginning to understand that a lot of these people do a lot during the day, and they are likely to accumulate more energy expenditure during the day than others who go out and exercise,” said study co-author Todd Manini, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of aging and geriatric research at the College of Medicine and the UF Institute on Aging. “These studies are starting to shed light on the fact that accumulating activity during the day can potentially provide health benefits.”