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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Northwestern: Just an Hour of Weekly Walking Staves Off Disability

Just one hour a week of brisk walking — as if you are late to an appointment or trying to make a train — staves off disability in older adults with arthritis pain, or aching or stiffness in a knee, hip, ankle or foot, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

“This is less than 10 minutes a day for people to maintain their independence. It’s very doable,” said lead author Dr. Dorothy Dunlop, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This minimum threshold may motivate inactive older adults to begin their path toward a physically active lifestyle with the wide range of health benefits promoted by physical activity.”

The study was published April 1 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

An estimated 14 million older adults in the U.S. have symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, which is the most common form of osteoarthritis. Approximately two in five people with osteoarthritis — most of whom have it in their lower joints — develop disability limitations.

The study found an hour of weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity allowed older adults to maintain their ability to perform daily tasks like getting dressed or cross a street before a traffic light walk signal changed.

The weekly hour of exercise reduced their risk of mobility disability (walking too slowly to safely cross a street or less than one meter per second) by 85 percent and their risk of activities of daily living disability (difficulty performing morning routine tasks such as walking across a room, bathing and dressing) by almost 45 percent.

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