Tufts to Participate in Large Clinical Trial of Physical Activity in Older Adults

Investigators to study whether exercise prevents or delays loss of mobility
October 8, 2009

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BOSTON ─A quarter mile could be the short walking distance separating older adults who are homebound from those who are more independent. The Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University is one of eight field sites sharing $29.5 million over the next two years in federal stimulus funds from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) for a phase 3 clinical trial investigating whether a structured physical activity program can preserve the ability to walk in older adults.

"The common goal of the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study is to determine whether routine physical activity, such as 30 minutes of walking plus a regimen of strengthening, balance, and flexibility exercises five days per week, prevents or delays the development of major mobility disability defined as the inability to walk a quarter mile," says Roger Fielding, PhD, Tufts’ principal investigator for LIFE and director of the Nutrition, Exercise, Physiology & Sarcopenia (NEPS) Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. "To an older adult, a quarter mile walk is a shopping trip or a short walk around the neighborhood."
 
Working with Fielding at Tufts is Miriam Nelson, PhD, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. The coordinating center is the University of Florida.
 
By the end of the six-year trial, NIA is expected to contribute a total of $64 million, which includes the $29.5 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. LIFE will be the largest randomized controlled trial ever conducted on physical activity in older adults.
 
"The scope of the trial is significant because it provides the opportunity to study whether older adults can adhere to physical activity regiments over a long period of time," says Fielding, who is also a professor at the Friedman School and Tufts University School of Medicine. "Additionally, the data will be used to investigate further the effects of physical activity on cognitive function and on health outcomes such as serious falls and acute care hospitalizations." Participants will be enrolled in the study for up to 3-and-a-half years.
 
Of the 1,600 sedentary older men and women ages 70 to 89 to be recruited, 200 will be followed at the USDA HNRCA. Investigators will compare the results of a physical activity intervention, where participants exercise at the field sites, and an educational intervention, where participants attend seminars on healthy aging.
 
In addition to Tufts and the University of Florida, the other field sites in the LIFE trial are: Northwestern University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center ─ a campus of the Louisiana State University system, Stanford University, the University of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, and Yale University. The principal investigator of the LIFE trial is Marco Pahor, MD, director of the University of Florida Institute on Aging.

About Tufts University School of Nutrition

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school's eight centers, which focus on questions relating to famine, hunger, poverty, and communications, are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy. For two decades, the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has studied the relationship between good nutrition and good health in aging populations. Tufts research scientists work with federal agencies to establish the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Reference Intakes, and other significant public policies.
 
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If you are a member of the media interested in learning more about this topic, or speaking with a faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Andrea Grossman at 617-636-3728.