Welcome to Healthy Age Inc

At Healthy Age Inc we aim to inform and empower you to age well. This is accomplished by providing cutting-edge scientific evidence from our consortium of experts in a format that is easily digested and actionable. We trawl through thousands of articles each day to find the pieces of research that are relevant to you and your personal ageing process. In an age where so-called “gurus” make outrageous and baseless claims in order to sell products, we have collected the best and brightest minds in the field of ageing research to make scientifically robust research accessible, meaningful and applicable to you.

Objectives

The purpose of the Healthy Age Inc is to bridge the gap between academic research and you. The best form of evidence is peer-reviewed research; however, these studies are largely inaccessible, hard to interpret and are usually unpleasantly dry reading material. In this blog our consortium of experts will synthesise these data into meaningful, actionable bits of information that you can apply to your daily life. Each day articles on new topics will be spotlighted and conveyed via this website.

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Physical activity improves strength, balance and endurance in older adults

Question

Can physical activity in adults aged 40–65 years enhance strength and balance and prevent falls?

What was done?

Systematic review with meta-analysis of all published randomised clinical trials of the effects of physical activity on strength, balance and number of falls experienced by adults aged 40-65.

What was found?

Muscle strength, balance, and endurance can be improved by physical activity in people aged 40–65 years. Bigger effects on muscle strength were experienced by programs that used resistance exercises.

How does this effect me?

By including physical activity, e.g. resistance training you can improve your overall physical health.

Article Abstract
Question: Can physical activity in adults aged 40-65 years enhance strength and balance and prevent falls? Design: Systematic review with meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Participants: Healthy adults aged 40-65 years. Intervention: Programs that involved the performance of any physical activity in community settings and workplaces. Outcome measures: Strength, balance, endurance, and falls rate. Results: Twenty-three eligible trials were identified and 17 of these were pooled in the meta-analyses. The meta-analysis of strength outcomes found a moderate effect of physical activity on strength (SMD = 0.54, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.70). Larger effects were observed from programs that specifically targeted strength (SMD = 0.68, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.87), when compared to those that did not (SMD = 0.32, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.55). This difference was statistically significant (effect of strength in meta-regression p = 0.045). Physical activity also had a moderate effect on both balance (SMD = 0.52, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.79) and endurance (SMD = 0.73, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.96). No trials reported effects of physical activity on falls soon after receiving the intervention. A statistically non-significant effect on falls 15 years after receiving a physical activity intervention was found in one trial (RR = 0.82, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.26). Conclusions: This review found that muscle strength, balance, and endurance can be improved by physical activity in people aged 40-65 years. There were bigger effects on muscle strength from programs that used resistance exercises, indicating the need to include a resistance training component if strength enhancement is the goal.

Keywords: Exercise, Muscle strength, Postural balance, Accidental falls, Systematic review, Meta-analysis

Article Citation

Ferreira, M.L., Sherrington, C., Smith, K., Carswell, P., Bell, R., Bell, M., Nascimento, D.P., Máximo Pereira, L.S., Vardon, P. Physical activity improves strength, balance and endurance in adults aged 40-65 years: A systematic review (2012) Journal of Physiotherapy, 58 (3), pp. 145-156.

Cognitive functioning improvements associated with video gaming

Background

Studies have suggested that video game training improves cognitive functioning; however, the evidence is unclear.

Why is this important?

Finding new ways to improve cognitive functioning is beneficial.

What was done?

A review of every study looking at the effects of video game training on cognition was conducted.

What was found?

Video game training has beneficial effects on cognitive function.

Article Abstract
It has been suggested that video game training enhances cognitive functions in young and older adults. However, effects across studies are mixed. We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the hypothesis that training healthy older adults with video games enhances their cognitive functioning. The studies included in the meta-analysis were video game training interventions with pre- and posttraining measures. Twenty experimental studies published between 1986 and 2013, involving 474 trained and 439 healthy older controls, met the inclusion criteria. The results indicate that video game training produces positive effects on several cognitive functions, including reaction time (RT), attention, memory, and global cognition. The heterogeneity test did not show a significant heterogeneity (I2 20.69%) but this did not preclude a further examination of moderator variables. The magnitude of this effect was moderated by methodological and personal factors, including the age of the trainees and the duration of the intervention. The findings suggest that cognitive and neural plasticity is maintained to a certain extent in old age. Training older adults with video games enhances several aspects of cognition and might be a valuable intervention for cognitive enhancement.

Keywords: aging, cognitive functions, meta-analysis, moderating factors, video game training

Article Citation

Toril, P., Reales, J. M., & Ballesteros, S. (2014). Video game training enhances cognition of older adults: A meta-analytic study. Psychology And Aging, 29(3), 706-716. doi:10.1037/a0037507

Link to Full Article

Social support and physical activity associated with greater resilience

Background

Many older adults experience reduced physical strength and mobility, particularly those in lower socioeconomic positions. However, some individuals have high wellbeing despite these challenges, i.e. they are “resilient”.

Why is this important?

If we can identify resources, such as physical activity and social support, that are associated with greater resilience, older adults may have higher quality of life despite facing age-related challenges.

What was done?

A survey of over 1756 older adults was administered, asking participants about their levels of wellbeing. Trained nurses then measured participants’ level of physical functioning.

What was found?

Increased physical activity and social support was associated with greater resilience.

How does this affect me?

By taking more exercise and being more socially involved, you may experience greater wellbeing.

Article Abstract
Background:
Aging is associated with declines in physical capability; however, some individuals demonstrate high well-being despite this decline, i.e. they are “resilient.” We examined socioeconomic position (SEP) and resilience and the influence of potentially modifiable behavioral resources, i.e. social support and leisure time physical activity (LTPA), on these relationships.

Methods:
Data came from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, a nationally-representative birth cohort study. Resilience–vulnerability at age 60–64 years (n = 1,756) was operationalized as the difference between observed and expected levels of well-being, captured by the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), given the level of performance-based physical capability. SEP was assessed by father’s and own social class, parental education, and intergenerational social mobility. PA and structural/functional social support were reported at ages 53 years and 60–64 years. Path analysis was used to examine mediation of SEP and resilience–vulnerability through LTPA and social support.

Results:
Participants in the highest social class had scores on the resilience to vulnerability continuum that were an average of 2.3 units (β = 0.46, 95% CI 0.17, 0.75) higher than those in the lowest social class. Greater LTPA (β = 0.58, 95% CI 0.31, 0.85) and social support (β = 3.27, 95% CI 2.90, 3.63) were associated with greater resilience; LTPA partly mediated participant social class and resilience (23.4% of variance).

Conclusions:
Adult socioeconomic advantage was associated with greater resilience. Initiatives to increase LTPA may contribute to reducing socioeconomic inequalities in this form of resilience in later life.

Keywords: resilience, healthy aging, physical functioning, wellbeing

Article Citation

Cosco, T., Cooper, R., Kuh, D., & Stafford, M. (2017). Socioeconomic inequalities in resilience and vulnerability among older adults: A population-based birth cohort analysis. International Psychogeriatrics, 1-9. doi:10.1017/S1041610217002198

Benefits of replacing sitting time with activities

Background

Researchers wanted to uncover what, if any, the benefits of replacing sitting time with exercise and activities were.

Why is this important?

The effects of replacing time spent with other activities has not been explored.

What was done?

A survey of over 300,000 older adults was administered, identifying how much time individuals spent sitting and in exercise and other activities.

What was found?

Increased time spent sitting was associated with increased risk of death. Replacing sitting time with activities, especially purposeful exercise, decreased the risk of death.

How does this effect me?

Increase your chances of living longer by avoiding sitting and replacing this time with activities. For example, instead of watching an extra episode on TV, go for a walk.

Article Abstract
Purpose
Prolonged sitting has emerged as a risk factor for early mortality, but the extent of benefit realized by replacing sitting time with exercise, or activities of everyday living (i.e. non-exercise activities), is not known.

Methods
We prospectively followed 154,614 older adults (59–82 years) in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study who reported no major chronic diseases at baseline and reported detailed information about sitting time, exercise, non-exercise activities. Proportional hazards models were used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals (HR [95%CI]) for mortality. An isotemporal modeling approach was used to estimate associations for replacing sitting time with specific types of physical activity, with separate models fit for less active and more active participants to account for non-linear associations.

Results
During 6.8 (SD=1.0) years of follow-up 12,201 deaths occurred. Greater sitting time (≥ 12 vs. < 5 hrs/d) was associated with increased risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. In less active adults (< 2 hrs/d total activity), replacing one hour of sitting per day with an equal amount of activity was associated with lower all-cause mortality for both exercise (HR=0.58 [0.54,0.63]) and non-exercise activities (HR=0.70 [0.66,0.74]), including household chores, lawn and garden work, and daily walking. Among more active participants (2+ hrs/d total activity) replacement of sitting time with purposeful exercise was associated with lower mortality (HR=0.91 [0.88–0.94]), but not with non-exercise activity (HR=1.00 [0.98–1.02]). Similar results were noted for cardiovascular mortality.

Conclusions
Physical activity intervention strategies for older adults often focus on aerobic exercise, but our findings suggest that reducing sitting time and engaging in a variety of activities is also important, particularly for inactive adults.

Keywords: sedentary behavior, prevention, lifestyle activities, cancer

Article Citation

Matthews, C.E., Moore, S., Sampson, J., Blair, A., Xiao, Q., Keadle, S., Hollenbeck., Park, Y. (2014). Mortality benefits for replacing sitting time with different activities. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Higher education associated with better ageing trajectories

School participation may have long-term effects on health and wellbeing

Question

What is the relationship between education and long-term health trajectories?

What was done?

1,141 community-dwelling older adults completed questionnaires three times across a four year period regarding their physical, psychological, and social health. Groups of participants that had particularly high levels of overall health were compared with those who had poorer long-term health. Levels of education were compared between groups of high and low levels of overall health.

What was found?

Participants in the highest overall health group had higher levels of education when compared to those in lower health groups.

How does this affect me?

Education may have long-term effects on health.

Article Abstract

As the population ages, interest is increasing in studying aging well. However, more refined means of examining predictors of biopsychosocial conceptualizations of successful aging (SA) are required. Existing evidence of the relationship between early-life education and later-life SA is unclear. The Successful Aging Index (SAI) was mapped onto the Cognitive Function and Aging Study (CFAS), a longitudinal population-based cohort ( n = 1,141). SAI scores were examined using growth mixture modelling (GMM) to identify SA trajectories. Unadjusted and adjusted (age, sex, occupational status) ordinal logistic regressions were conducted to examine the association between trajectory membership and education level. GMM identified a three-class model, capturing high, moderate, and low functioning trajectories. Adjusted ordinal logistic regression models indicated that individuals in higher SAI classes were significantly more likely to have higher educational attainment than individuals in the lower SAI classes. These results provide evidence of a life course link between education and SA.

Link to full article.

Dog ownership associated with greater physical activity

  Having a companion dog may encourage greater exercise.

Question

What is the relationship between dog ownership and physical activity?

What was done?

Older adults in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk cohort used accelerometers to monitor their physical activity for a week. The amount of exercise taken by participants was compared in dog owners and non-owners.

What was found?

Dog ownership was associated with greater physical activity.

How does this affect me?

Having a dog to take for walks may encourage greater exercise.

Article Abstract

Background Dog ownership has been suggested to encourage physical activity in older adults and may enhance resilience to poor environmental conditions. This study investigates the role of dog ownership and walking as a means of supporting the maintenance of physical activity in older adults during periods of inclement weather.

Methods The analysis used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Norfolk cohort. Daily physical activity (counts per minute) and minutes of sedentary behaviour were measured using accelerometers over 7 days. Three types of environmental conditions, day length, precipitation and maximum temperature, were date matched with daily physical activity. A multilevel first-order autoregressive time-series model quantified the moderating effect of self-reported dog ownership and walking on the association between physical activity and weather factors.

Results Among the 3123 participants, 18% reported having a dog in their households and two-thirds of dog owners walked their dogs at least once a day. Regular dog walkers were more active and less sedentary on days with the poorest conditions than non-dog owners were on the days with the best conditions. In days with the worst conditions, those who walked their dogs had 20% higher activity levels than non-dog owners and spent 30 min/day less sedentary.

Conclusion Those who walked dogs were consistently more physically active than those who did not regardless of environmental conditions. These large differences suggest that dog walking, where appropriate, can be a component of interventions to support physical activity in older adults.

Link to full article.

Continued learning associated with higher levels of wellbeing in older adults

  Engaging in learning activities may improve your quality of life.

Question

What is the relationship between continued learning activities and psychological wellbeing?

What was done?

Participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing were asked whether they were involved in obtaining qualifications; attendance at formal education/training courses; membership of education, music or arts groups or evening classes; membership of sports clubs, gym and exercise classes. A number of psychological variables were also measured, e.g. wellbeing.

What was found?

Learning was associated with higher wellbeing.

How does this affect me?

Engaging in learning activities may increase your wellbeing.

Article Abstract

There is growing interest in factors which can contribute to the wellbeing of older adults. Participation in learning could have beneficial effects, but to date research on the benefits of learning has tended to focus on young people or those in mid-life and there is currently little evidence on the impact of learning on the wellbeing of older adults. In this paper we provide new, quantitative evidence on the relationship between participation in learning and the wellbeing of older adults. Our study used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), a continuing, longitudinal survey of older adults. To measure wellbeing we used the CASP-19 instrument, a subjective wellbeing measure which is available at all waves of the ELSA survey. Respondents were asked about four types of learning activity: obtaining qualifications; attendance at formal education/training courses; membership of education, music or arts groups or evening classes; membership of sports clubs, gym and exercise classes. To take account of unobservable factors which might influence wellbeing, we applied fixed effects panel regressions to four waves of ELSA data. Learning was associated with higher wellbeing after controlling for a range of other factors. We found evidence that more informal types of learning were associated with higher wellbeing. There was no evidence that formal education/training courses were associated with higher wellbeing.

Link to full article.