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Daily Light Activity Can Prevent Disability

older-black-couplePeople who spend more than four hours a day engaged in light physical activity have more than a 30 percent risk reduction for developing a disability, compared to those spending only three hours a day in light activity, according to researchers in a new Northwestern University School of Medicine study.

The research involved a group of almost 1,700 adults, ages 45 to 79, who were participating in a long-term study of osteoarthritis. The participants did not have a disability, but they were at an elevated risk for becoming disabled due to knee arthritis.

The results of the study were published April 29 in the British Medical Journal.

The subjects wore an accelerometer on the hip during waking hours for about a week. The device measured the intensity of their daily movements, giving the study team an idea of how much time they spent in vigorous, moderate, or light activities. The data was collected for a period of two years.

And the results are promising for older adults who want to stay active and healthy.

“Our findings provide encouragement for adults who may not be candidates to increase physical activity intensity due to health limitations,” Dr. Dorothy Dunlop, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study, toldĀ WebMD News.

“We were delighted to see that more time spent during the day, by simply moving your body, even at a light intensity, may reduce disability,” Dunlop continued. “Now people with health problems or physical limitations, who cannot increase the intensity of their activity, have a starting place in the effort to stay independent.”

Light physical activities include, but is not limited to walking, pushing a shopping cart or vacuum cleaner, or doing laundry.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people around the world, according to the Mayo Clinic. While it can damage any joint in the body, the disorder most commonly affects joints in the hands, neck, lower back, knees and hips and it affects independence and mobility.

Osteoarthritis gradually worsens with time, and no cure exists.

This study was funded in part by National Institute for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases of the National Institutes of Health and by the Falk Medical Trust. The public Osteoarthritis Initiative data were funded through a public-private partnership comprised of five contracts awarded by the NIH.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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