|What Can Prevent Walking Disability in
Recovery Act Funds Support Large-Scale Clinical Trial to Test
Specific Exercise Program
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes
of Health, today announced the award of $29.5 million in grant
support over the next two years to determine whether a specific
physical activity program can stave off disability in older people.
The funding will begin the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence
for Elders — LIFE — trial, the largest ever undertaken
to prevent mobility disability among older people who are at risk
of losing their ability to walk and to live independently in the
community. The grant is being awarded to the University of Florida's
Institute on Aging in Gainesville.
The first two years of the six-year, eight-site LIFE trial are
being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The grants are part of the $5 billion that President Obama announced
Sept. 30 on the NIH campus.
"There is a lot of evidence indicating that exercise can
help in preventing diseases, such as diabetes, among older people.
But we do not know whether and how a specific regimen might prevent
walking disability in older people who are at risk of losing mobility," said
NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "This research is critically
important at a time when the population is aging and new interventions
should be sought to keep people healthy and functioning in the
At eight sites around the country, LIFE will involve 1,600 people
aged 70 to 89, who at the start of the study meet its criteria
for risk of walking disability, defined as the inability to walk
a quarter of a mile or four blocks. About 200 participants will
be enrolled at each of the study sites, which include the University
of Florida; the University of Pittsburgh; Northwestern University
School of Medicine in Chicago; Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif.; Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.;
Yale University in New Haven, Conn.; Tufts University in Boston
and Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem,
N.C. Wake Forest will also coordinate the data management and analysis.
"Limitations in walking ability compromise independence and
contribute to the need for assistive care," said Evan C. Hadley,
M.D., director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology,
whose program is overseeing the trial. "Older people with
impaired walking are less likely to remain in the community, have
higher rates of certain diseases and death, and experience a poorer
quality of life. A successful intervention might help prevent these
"We know that many older people have chronic health problems
that affect their ability to walk," said Jack Guralnik, M.D.,
Ph.D., chief of the NIA’s Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography
and Biometry and co-principal investigator of the study. "Arthritis,
muscle weakness and poor balance can all affect how well and how
far a person can walk. And, some older people have all of these
problems. We will test the LIFE intervention in this population
to see how it works in a real-world setting."
Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups.
One group will follow a structured intervention consisting of walking
at moderate intensity, stretching, balance and lower extremity
strength training; the control group will participate in a health
education program. The participants will be followed for about
three years. Researchers will evaluate whether, compared to health
education, the physical activity intervention reduces the risk
of major walking disability, serious fall injuries and disability
in activities of daily living, and whether it improves cognitive
function. They will also assess the cost-effectiveness of the intervention.
"This will be the largest randomized controlled trial to
prevent major mobility disability ever conducted in older persons
who are at high risk of losing their physical independence," said
Marco Pahor, M.D., director of the University of Florida’s Institute
on Aging and study principal investigator. "Typically, this
population is excluded from large trials, and from this perspective
the LIFE study is unique."
The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research
on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older
people. For more information on research and aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
The activities described in this release are being funded through
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information
about the NIH Recovery Act grant funding opportunities can be found
To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the Recovery
Act, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery.
To track all federal funds provided through the Recovery Act, visit www.recovery.gov.