Exercise as it relates to Disease/Importance of walking on life expectancy among rural elders

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This Wiki fact sheet will analyse the study 'Daily Walking and Life Expectancy of Elderly People in the Iowa 65+ Rural' by Hani Samawi (2013).[1]

What is the background to this research?[edit]

It has long been known that there is a direct correlation between physical activity and life expectancy.[1][2] Maintaining a well balanced diet and exercise status throughout life is not only important for life expectancy, but also quality of life.[2] Throughout our lifespan, we partake in different types of exercise, for better or for worse. The quality of exercise and quantity often declines with old age.[3] This exercise deficit can also be set further back by living within rural areas.

Physical activity among the older population is quite important when you consider the consequences of being sedentary.[3] Going running or attending gym classes is often not an option for some elderly. This can be due to geographic location, financial costs, daily commitments or health complications. Finding a balance and a manageable exercise routine is important for cognitive performance and physical health.[4] Exercise as little as walking can be beneficial in many ways to someone’s health. Walking is affordable, easily accessible and convenient mode of physical activity. This research aims to provide evidence that walking can improve life expectancy and not just quality of life.[1][5]

The purpose of this research was to identify areas where there is improvement to Life expectancy. Particularly for the elderly population living in a rural area. Walking is the targeted exercise as this is achievable for all who participated within the study.

Where is this research from?[edit]

This research comes from Samawi[1] at the Georgia Southern University, United States. The study population was rurally located persons, from Washington and the State of Iowa.

What kind of research was this?[edit]

This type of research conducted was qualitative research. Recording and analysing the research was the key focus of the study, this in turn allowed for a deeper understanding of human behaviour.

What did the research involve?[edit]

The process of this study was rather simple. The researcher collected a random sample of 3,673 rurally located individuals over the age of 65. Of this population, 1,420 were men and 2,253 were women. During the study, 923 individuals passed away. Furthermore, remaining individuals who needed assistance waking were also excluded from the final population. From the remainder 2,717, 1,134 exercised daily through walking and the remainder 1,583 remained sedentary. Throughout the 8-year period a questionnaire was designed to monitor medical condition and history. 13 of the questions were used within the study. The questions was asked annually, giving a database of 8 questionnaires. Below is a table of the questions asked, it contains the baseline variable and description, the frequency it was recorded and a overall population percentage.

Table: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3854856/table/T1/.[6]

What were the basic results?[edit]

The basic results form this study give reasoning that daily exercise, particularly walking, has a 'protective effect against any cause of mortality' and that 'walking may add to the years of life expectancy'. This is only true for after adjusting for other health conditions and taking into consideration history of disease. These results are most favourable to individuals who have have had a history of a stroke. It was found that there was a 81% reduction for walkers compared to non walkers.

The results data was analysed by using a Hazard Ratio (HR) scale, this describes the ratio of hazards in correspondence to the conditions.

How did the researchers interpret the results?[edit]

The final data was analysed and interpreted by using a Hazard Ratio (HR) scale, this scale describes the ratio of hazards in correspondence to the conditions. The table used above gives a greater understanding of this. With this scale in place, it leaves no room for miss interpretation of the results. The researcher wanted to be able to identify direct links between not walking and the chance of disease. The research is believed to only show 'a small part of the total picture' with suggestion to improving life expectancy.

What conclusions should be taken away from this research?[edit]

Being active is an important part of overall health. Studies have been frequently conducted since the completion of this one. These all regally highlight benefits of exercise on the elderly[7][8] Without walking, there are more detrimental issues involved than extending life. As previously mentioned, the researchers wanted to take into consideration quality of life and daily effects of not walking. This is crucial as during the later years it is important to uphold daily health.

I believe that a further in-depth analysis of quality of life would have further enhanced this study. How far were individuals encouraged to walk daily and what are the effects of different distances. When looking at life expectance solely it is important to consider these two qualities. I also wanted to see the study showed differences between rural and city based individuals. This way, we can break down further as to what quality of walking and exercise each party was taking apart of.

What are implications of this research?[edit]

This research has shown that walking daily has a positive relationship to living a longer and healthier life. it has proved informative and insightful for further research and study. As a basis, this study provides useful, although more strategies could be implicated for greater accuracy and success. A modern approach, larger sample size and greater study length could prove more effective, as long as more expansive research areas. Education of the issues is a largely funded and important area of the health system to focus on. With more research and required education individuals will understand the importance of walking and the effects exercise has on life expectancy. Overall this is sound research that was effective during it's time.

Further reading[edit]

For further information and greater understanding of sedentary behaviour, especially in older adults; follow the links below.

Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines - http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Exercise for Seniors - https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/exerciseforseniors.html

Physical Activity in Rural Australia - http://ruralhealth.org.au/sites/default/files/fact-sheets/Fact-Sheet-26-physical%20activity%20in%20rural%20australia_0.pdf


  1. a b c d Samawi (2013). ‘Daily Walking and Life Expectancy of Elderly People in the Iowa 65+ Rural Health Study’. Vol. 1.
  2. a b Harvard Heart Letter, (2013). ‘Exercise: 15 minutes a day ups lifespan by 3 years’. Vol. 24, Issue 4, p4-5. Available from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/exercise-15-minutes-a-day-ups-lifespan-by-3-years
  3. a b Rezende, Lopez, Matsudo & Luiz, (2014). ‘Sedentary behaviour and health outcomes among older adults: A systematic review’. Preventive Medicine. Vol. 14.
  4. Louis, Erickson & Teresa, (2013). ‘A Review of the Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Cognitive and Brain Functions in Older Adults’. Journal of Ageing Research. Vol. 2013, p1-3
  5. Brigham and Women’s Hospital Public Affairs, (2012). ‘How much exercise is enough’. HEALTH & MEDICINE. Available from: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/11/how-much-exercise-is-enough
  6. Samawi, (2013). ‘Daily Walking and Life Expectancy of Elderly People in the Iowa 65+ Rural Health Study’. Picture.
  7. Hakim et al. (1999) 'Effects of Walking on Coronary Heart Disease in Elderly Men' Vol. 1
  8. Lubitz et al, (2013) 'Health, Life Expectancy, and Health Care Spending among the Elderly'The New England Journal Of Medicine. Vol 1.