Health & Wellness

Move Now So You’ll Able to Move Later

Even light-intensity activity such a casual walk helps to prevent the loss of mobility

By Caitlin Finlay


Moderate- to high-intensity activity has been shown to prevent mobility loss in older adults. Now a US study has shown that light-intensity activities such as shopping and casual walks are enough to reduce the likelihood of mobility disability by 46%.

Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study looked at the effects of light-intensity activity on mobility in postmenopausal women. Mobility disability is defined as difficulty walking or climbing stairs; prior research had found that 24% of women over 65 in the United States are unable to walk two to three blocks. Mobility disability greatly reduces a person’s independence and quality of life.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego worked with 5,735 US women 63 years or older who had no mobility issues. The participants wore an accelerometer and had their levels of physical activity monitored over a period of seven days. The patients then provided follow-up information on their mobility over a period of six years. The average time spent doing light physical activity was 4.8 hours a day.

The women who spent more time doing light-intensity activities were 46% less likely to experience mobility loss than were those who spent less time being physically active. The researchers took body mass index (BMI) into account and found that while all participants saw a reduced risk of mobility loss with increased physical activity, the reduction was greater among women whose BMI was under 30.

“Older adults who want to maintain their mobility should know that all movement, not just moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, counts,” senior author Andrea LaCroix, Distinguished Professor and chief of the Division of Epidemiology at Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health, said in a press release. “We found that, among older women, light-intensity physical activity preserves mobility later in life.”

Photo: iStock/jacoblund.