Too Much TV Ramps Up Mobility Risk In Elderly

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON, DC — Older people who watched more than five hours of TV per day and reported three or fewer hours per week of total physical activity had more than a three-fold higher risk of being unable to walk or having difficulty walking at the end of an 8-year study.

The new study, which assessed all types of sedentary behavior, as well as light, moderate, and vigorous physical activity, observed that prolonged sitting and TV watching was particularly harmful–especially when combined with low levels of total physical activity.

“TV viewing is a very potent risk factor for disability in older age,” says lead author of the study Loretta DiPietro, PhD, MPH, Chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH). “Sitting and watching TV for long periods (especially in the evening) has got to be one of the most dangerous things that older people can do because they are much more susceptible to the damages of physical inactivity.”

DiPietro and her colleagues analyzed data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which kept track of men and women age 50 to 71 from six states and two metropolitan areas. All of the participants were healthy at the study’s start in 1995-1996. The researchers recorded how much the participants watched TV, exercised or did gardening, housework or other physical activity at the beginning of the investigation, and then followed participants for nearly 10 years.

At the end of the study, nearly 30 percent of the previously healthy participants reported a mobility disability–having difficulty walking or being unable to walk at all. The researchers observed that participants who watched 5 or more hours of TV per day had a 65 percent greater risk of reporting a mobility disability at the study’s end, compared with those who watched the least amounts of TV (less than 2 hours per day), independent of their level of total physical activity. Researchers also identified a variety of other risk factors known to affect mobility disability risk.

Increasing levels of total sitting and TV time in combination with low (3 hours per week or less) physical activity were especially harmful, resulting in an acceleration of risk. Among those people in the most physically active group (greater than 7 hours per week), total sitting of 6 hours per day or less was not associated with excess mobility disability;

On the other hand, within all levels of physical activity, increasing amounts of TV viewing time increased the likelihood of a walking disability in a dose-response manner.

Other studies have found that too much sitting is a health hazard even for older people who meet the moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week. But unlike this study, previous research did not follow people prospectively over a long period of time and did not consider the combined impact of both sedentary time and physical activity.

Younger people might be able to get away with sitting for long periods because they are physiologically more robust, DiPietro says. But after age 50, this study suggests that prolonged sitting and especially prolonged television viewing becomes particularly hazardous. TV viewing in the evening may be especially detrimental to health because it is not broken up with short bouts of activity, compared with sitting during the day, DiPietro adds.

“We’ve engineered physical activity out of our modern life with commuting, elevators, the internet, mobile phones and a lifestyle (think Netflix streaming) that often includes 14 hours of sitting per day,” says DiPietro. “Our findings suggest that older people who want to remain fit must ramp up their daily physical activity and reduce the amount of time they spend sitting.”

To help reduce the risk, DiPietro suggests building more physical activity into daily life. For example, people who sit for long periods in front of a computer should get up every hour and/or switch to a standing desk. Commuters can park the car several blocks away from the office or decide to take the stairs. Older people should walk about as much as possible throughout the day, and everyone should consider binging less on television—or at least marching in place during commercials or in between episodes.

“To stay active and healthy as you age, move more and sit less—throughout the day—everyday,” DiPietro says.

The study, “The Joint Associations of Sedentary Time and Physical Activity with MobilityDisability in Older People: The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study,” was published August 30 in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. The work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.

80 Year Olds as Street-Savvy as 18 Year Olds

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Our gut instinct about whether a stranger poses a threat is as good when we’re 80 as when we’re 18, according to new research.

Older people are as good as young adults at knowing when someone is potentially aggressive, and being streetwise appears to be a skill honed in childhood but not fully reliable until adulthood.

The new research, led by Dr. Liam Satchell, of the University of Portsmouth, is the third study he has led on examining our ability at various ages to gauge others’ aggression.

He said: Older people can be reassured that their gut instincts about who is posing a danger are, generally, excellent, there was no difference in the ability of each adult group.

“The results could encourage older people to recognize they are street smart, that their gut instincts are spot on.”

Dr. Satchell wanted to examine our ability to assess real threats in strangers as we age against a backdrop of much debate on the effects of fear of crime in older people.

He said: “When walking down a street late at night, people may feel concerned about the threat posed by an approaching person. They may cross a street or change their behavior and might even stop going out.

“There could be lots of factors which might make an older person frightened of being a victim of crime, but research on the relationship between age and fear of crime isn’t clear-cut. It’s likely to be influenced by many factors, including the type of crime feared, gender and a person’s belief in their ability to defend themselves.

“Until now, there has been little conclusive evidence of older people’s ability to detect everyday street threats.”

Previous research has shown that simply watching someone walk communicates a great deal about the likelihood of them being aggressive.

Dr. Satchell’s series of studies have shown that feelings of threat and intimidation are reliable at telling us how aggressive other people are, and that this is a skill that improves gradually through childhood, reaches its peak in adulthood, and doesn’t decline in older age.

“A lot of people are afraid walking at night, but some people see risk where there is none,” he said.

“It’s important we can make quick, accurate judgments of the danger posed by others. All our studies have shown adults are very good at detecting traits in others, at recognizing danger. Even when we simulate a shadowy outline of a person at a distance, people can readily recognize a potential aggressor. The accuracy of our social perceptions in adulthood is robust, but children may need more time to develop the relevant experiences.”

The latest results are from a small-scale study and he said more research needs to be done to assess, for example, whether the older people who agree to take part in a scientific study are, by nature, also confident and likely to be less worried about crime.

His study examined threat perception in 39 people aged 59-91, and in 87 people aged 20-28.

Nearly all – 95 per cent – of both groups correctly gauged the aggression, or level of intimidation, of five women and four men filmed walking on a treadmill. The ‘walkers’ had been selected after taking a renowned aggression test to ensure they represented a wide cross-section of degrees of aggression.

Dr. Satchell and his co-authors, Dr. Lucy Akehurst, Dr. Paul Morris and Dr. Claire Nee, are members of the University of Portsmouth’s International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology.

The study is the latest in a series of research papers he has led on which together build a picture of how well we recognize the aggression of an approaching person from childhood to old age. He has found that as children we are generally poor at judging threat, that we develop sharper instincts around the age of 18-20, and that these instincts don’t decline as we age.

He said: “The findings overall suggest we develop a streetwise ability, that we are able to make judgments about others and our safety, once we reach adulthood.”

Some 13-15 year olds were very accurate in their assessments of threat in an earlier study, but in general, there is a lot of variation in young people’s reliability, whereas, post-18, almost everyone was very good, they made the same judgments and they were accurate. They have learned the ability to detect threat.

In Dr. Satchell’s latest study is published in Europe’s Journal of Psychology,

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