New Scientific Reviews Highlight Benefits of Physical Activity for Older People and Pregnant Women

Two new scientific reviews identify the benefits of physical activity for older people and pregnant women during pregnancy and in the post-partum period. Both will be published in the June issue of the scientific journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the flagship journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

These two papers are part of a new collection of 15 scientific pronouncements that address daily step counts, physical activity and the prevention of weight gain, sedentary behavior, and health and other topics related to the updated Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which were released in November 2018.

In the first paper, Loretta DiPietro, PhD, professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and her colleagues reviewed 140 systematic reviews/meta-analyses on exercise and aging published between 2006 and 2019. They report strong evidence indicating that physical activity reduces the risk of fall-related injuries in older people by up to 40 percent, including serious falls that could require a hospital visit.  

The authors also report strong evidence indicating that physical activity improved physical function and reduced the risk of age-related loss of physical function among people aged 65 and older. In addition, regular physical activity improved physical function in older people with frailty, as well as in those with Parkinson’s disease and other chronic diseases.

In a second scientific review paper, DiPietro and her co-authors summarized the evidence on physical activity’s impact on maternal health during pregnancy and during the post-partum period. They identified 76 systematic reviews/meta-analyses on this topic and report strong evidence that moderate intensity physical activity reduced the risk of excessive weight gain during pregnancy, the development of gestational diabetes and symptoms of post-partum depression.

“The research clearly shows the enormous benefits of getting regular physical activity at any age and even with established chronic disease,” DiPietro said. “Indeed, the return on investment is high, indicating that regular physical activity may be our “best buy” in addressing the economic burden of lifestyle-related disease in the United States.”

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Read the two scientific pronouncements by DiPietro and others in the collection here.

Check out a 2019 study by DiPietro showing that the combo of excess weight/obesity and an inactive lifestyle represent a powerful new risk factor for developing mobility loss after age 60.

Learn more about DiPietro’s 2017 study finding that older, sedentary people who watched more than five hours of TV per day had an accelerated risk of developing a walking disability during a ten-year observation period.