Light-intensity physical activity, including gardening, shopping or a casual walk may protect mobility in older women, suggests a new study.
The study indicated that women who did not have a mobility disability at the start of the study, and who spent the most amount of time doing light-intensity activities, were 40 per cent less likely to experience loss of mobility over a six-year period.
"Older adults who want to maintain their mobility should know that all movement, not just moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, counts," said researcher Andrea LaCroix from the University of California – San Diego.
"We found that, among older women, light-intensity physical activity preserves mobility later in life," LaCroix added.
According to the researchers, one in four women over age 65 is unable to walk two blocks or climb a flight of stairs. Known as mobility disability, it is the leading type of incapacity in the US and a key contributor to a person's loss of independence.
For the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the team involved 5,735 women age 63 and older. Participants wore a research-grade accelerometer for seven days to obtain accurate measures of their physical activity. The mean time spent in light physical activity was 4.8 hours per day.
Researchers found that women who spent the most time performing light-intensity physical activity had a 46 per cent lower risk of mobility loss compared to women who participated in lower levels of physical activity.
Women with and without obesity also reduced their risk of mobility disability, but the benefit was strongest among women with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30.