Exercise And Diet Improve Immunity To Disease In The Elderly

Exercise And Diet Improve Immunity To Disease In The Elderly

With the onset of old age there is often a decline in the immune response to disease. The result is that infectious diseases can have debilitating or even fatal consequences for the elderly. Prevention of age-related decline in cellular immune response could significantly improve their quality of life. A trial was carried out by the Division of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology, Wageningen University, Netherlands over a period of 17 weeks to observe the effects of vitamin/mineral enriched foods and exercise in frail elderly people.

Nine micronutrients are considered especially important in increasing immunity – Vitamin A, C, E, B6, folate, iron, copper, selenium and zinc. These were added to the diet and specific exercises were prescribed and evaluated by six performance tests: ability to balance things, walking over 6m with usual speed and step length carrying 5 kg (e.g. handbag), time required for standing from chair five times, touching left foot with right hand and vice versa (in sitting position) and putting on and buttoning coat. From this study it was observed that whereas exercise may prevent and slow the age-related decline in immune response, no exercise certainly lowered it. The micronutrient enriched diet showed no significant effect.

This study strengthens the theory that daily exercise particularly the type that is focussed on skills training is important for the elderly to protect themselves from illness.

Source: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

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