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Abstract & Commentary
Synopsis: Active individuals, as determined either by their level of physical fitness or physical activity, reported less functional limitations than unfit, sedentary participants, and such was true for both moderately fit as well as more highly fit men and women and was independent of known potential risk factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and body mass index.
Source: Huang Y, et al. Physical fitness, physical activity, and functional limitation in adults aged 40 and older. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30(9):1430-1435.
This article from the university of south Carolina’s Prevention Center School of Public Health and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research distinguishes physical activity and physical fitness, relating each to the prevalence of functional limitations in middle and upper socioeconomic adults aged 40 and older. Unlike physical activity, the relationship of physical fitness to such limitations has not been previously extensively examined, but Huang and associates argue it may be a better parameter to relate to functional imitations since fitness can be measured more objectively and accurately than self-reported physical activity.
Of the 3495 men and 1175 women followed for an average of 5.5 years, 350 (7.5%) reported at least one functional limitation in daily activity. Women, at all fitness levels, reported a greater incidence of functional limitations than did men. As expected, active individuals, as determined either by their level of physical fitness or physical activity, reported less functional limitations than unfit, sedentary participants, and such was true for both moderately fit as well as more highly fit men and women and was independent of known potential risk factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, etc.
In an attempt to encourage a greater segment of the population, especially those in the 40 or older age range, to exercise regularly, health professionals recently re-evaluated the minimal quantity and quality of exercise needed to develop and maintain cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and to see if a less vigorous regimen than the previously recommended 3-5 days a week of 20-30 minutes of continuous exercise done at 75-85% of maximum heart rate was realistic. Their effort culminated in a revised position statement by the American College of Sports Medicine (issued in 1998) on minimal exercise standards. This statement encourages a fitness program for each individual that provides "the proper amount of physical activity to obtain maximal benefit at the lowest risk" with an emphasis on encouraging lifestyle changes to ensure a lifetime of physical activity.1
The American College still recommends a 3-5 day frequency of exercise but at an intensity from 55% to 90% maximal heart rate depending on one’s initial fitness level. The recommendation for the duration of activity was revised from 20 to 30 minutes of continuous exercise to 20 to 60 minutes of exercise throughout the day performed for a minimum of 10 minute bouts, with a suggestion that lower intensity activities be attempted for longer durations.
This position also suggests that resistance and flexibility training should be an integral part of an adult fitness program but once more emphasizes moderation, stating that one set of 8-10 exercises each repeated 8-12 times 2-3 days a week is adequate for a resistance program. Exercises should be selected that condition the major muscle groups.
The National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Office of the Surgeon General have also recently issued statements encouraging all Americans to be physically active, emphasizing the benefits of such activity in reducing the incidence of many chronic diseases including hypertension, osteoporosis, obesity, and coronary artery disease.
1. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. The recommended quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, and flexibility in healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30(6):975-991.