Reducing hospital stays for seniors

July 30, 2009 3:32:51 PM PDT
A new study looks at a particular heath habit that could help elderly people stay stronger and lower their risk for hospitalization. And frequent hospital stays for senior citizens means a lower quality of life and a high cost to society as a whole. Now, an important study from the Journal of the American Geriatric Society shows exercise can help to lower the risk of hospitalization.

And one form of exercise that is senior friendly is yoga. At the Caring Community Senior Center in Greenwich Village, all the folks participating in a chair yoga class are over the age of 70. Even in their older years, they work on their health, and in doing so they're likely improving their chances of staying out of the hospital.

"And I encourage them to take a big part in their own healing and in their own health," said yoga teacher Jane Ibanez. .

"A lot of people come, sciatica, arthritis, problems with just moving, once they leave the class they're just thrilled," said Nicole Brown at the Caring Community Center.

The study followed over three thousand healthy adults between the ages of 70 and 80 for approximately five years. Researchers studied how the seniors functioned physically by measuring their walking speed and leg strength. CT scans measured composition of muscle versus fat, an analysis known as muscle density. The findings-- there was a 50 percent higher risk of hospitalizations for those with poor functioning and low muscle density than for the seniors who functioned better physically and were more muscularly dense. "Older adults who have maintained muscle mass, muscle strength, are generally more healthy and have less complications due to their existing health problems," said Dr. Theordore Suh with the Cleveland Clinic.

The authors concluded the findings are important because they suggest physical exercise can not only reduce disability but also reduce the huge economic burden associated with hospitalization of the elderly. .

Seventy seven year old Hilda Merle is attending a Caring Community motion awareness class. .

"It helps. You're working with your brain, spine body, an awareness that you're just not going to fall," she said.

Fall prevention is one of the great benefits of many exercise programs, and falls are one of the largest reasons why seniors end up in the hospital. Exercise should be a part of everyone's life. This study proves even at age 70, there are tremendous benefits everyone can get from exercise. If you or your parents are new to exercise however, start slowly and speak to your doctor. Exercise walking, by the way, is one easy way to start and one easy way to improve. .