DALLAS Elaine Kice, 83, admits it would be a lot easier to sit at home or to use a wheelchair.

She walks, pushing an oxygen tank.

'I would like to just sit and relax,' Kice said, 'but I have to keep going. My husband keeps telling me to keep going.'

So she keeps going, pushing her tank for 14 laps around the track at the Texas Health Finley Ewing Cardiovascular and Fitness Center in Dallas.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows exercise can keep seniors functioning, even when they're on the cusp of losing their mobility.

Dr. Marco Pahor of the University of Florida, and colleagues with the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE), followed more 1,600 sedentary patients from 70 to 89 years of age for more than two years.

All of the study participants were at high risk of losing the ability to walk without assistance. Half were enrolled in physical activity classes; the other half were placed in a health education group.

At the end of the study, fewer seniors in the exercise group had become disabled.

'These results suggest the potential for structured physical activity as a feasible and effective intervention to reduce the burden of disability among vulnerable older persons, in spite of functional decline in late life,' the authors wrote. 'To our knowledge, the LIFE study is the largest and longest duration randomized trial of physical activity in older persons.'

Carol Wagers has been a fitness instructor at Texas Health Dallas for 14 years. She's personally seen even light exercise work wonders.

'We've seen them come in with walkers, and then they're here for a few months, and they don't need a walker,' Wagers said.

Elaine Kice said she also discovered that exercise helps her overall stamina and thinking abilities.

'I discovered it late,' she said of exercise.

But, she added, better late than never.


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