Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Genes Can Trump Exercise in Elderly Mobility

Magazine article Nutrition Health Review

Genes Can Trump Exercise in Elderly Mobility

Article excerpt

Genes can keep elderly people from benefiting equally from exercise, no matter how much effort they expend.

Of nearly 3,000 subjects studied, those who exercised stayed healthier than their inactive peers, but subjects born with a certain gene benefited the most from physical activity, said Dr. Marco Pahor, director of the University of Florida's Institute on Aging.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to show behavioral and genetic interaction in functioning and aging, and shows people are already pre-selected, that there are genes that interact with behavior to affect mobility," he said.

Decreasing mobility, along with lack of muscle strength and a decline in aerobic ability, are common aspects of aging that can lead to loss in quality of life, he explained. Understanding the mechanisms of how people lose mobility may lead to ways to help people remain independent longer, he added.

Federal health statistics have shown that about 34 percent of people in the United States aged 70 years or older report difficulty walking a quarter of a mile. These individuals have a higher risk for needing a nursing home or dying over a two-year period, compared with their counterparts who do not report trouble walking the distance.

Despite the undisputed benefits of exercise, not everyone responds the same, even when they do lead active lives--for reasons that have not been entirely clear.

In this study, researchers assessed older adults in an effort to understand the relationship between genetic makeup, the intensity of physical activity, and functional decline. Twice a year throughout the four-year study, participants aged 70 to 79 reported their level of activity and their ability to walk a quarter mile or up 10 stairs.

Researchers also tested the subjects' blood to identify which version of a gene long associated with exercise performance they had. About a third of the population possesses the DD genotype of the gene, named for the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). The rest have the II or ID version of the ACE gene.

The participants were categorized according to their exercise intensity and their genetic makeup. Overall, about 41 percent of study participants became less mobile over the four-year period. Even though the participants who exercised were less likely to develop substantial physical limitations, not all people received the same benefits, even if they exercised with the same intensity. …

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