Newswise — Good exercise habits formed in adolescence correlate positively with exercise habits in adults, and adults with good exercise habits have better physical performance and appropriate body-mass index scores for their age, according to a new study presented this week at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Regular exercise habits can lead to better physical fitness and mental health in people of all ages. However, research shows that people in the United States and Canada tend to exercise less as their age increases, and the most significant drop-offs in exercise habits take place during the teenage and early adult years. For this retrospective study, researchers in Taiwan wanted to know if exercise habits formed in adolescence could affect physical fitness in later adulthood, and to assess the relationship between adolescent and adult exercise habits and its influence on later physical fitness.

Professor Will Chou, Vice Chairman of Taiwan Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, trained a group of coaches and exercise teachers who later discussed whether exercise habits set early in life might correlate to fitness later in adulthood, said Po-Wei “Blake” Chen, MD, a PM&R resident physician at Chi Mei Medical Center in southern Taiwan and the study’s co-author.

“The conclusions of our study may persuade physicians to give their patients an exercise prescription, and to encourage teenagers to form exercise habits as young as possible,” said Dr. Chen. “Most aspects of physical fitness, such as cardiopulmonary function, muscle strength and endurance, and body-mass index show significant differences between adults who exercise and those who do not. However, flexibility and the percentage of chronic diseases between these two groups do not.” The researchers felt that one reason for this discrepancy was that the study subjects mostly engaged in aerobic and resistance exercises. “Flexibility exercises, such as yoga or Pilates, were done less often. Also, we do not have exact laboratory data or regular chronic disease medical records for our subjects. These are some aspects that we have to improve for future studies.”

The researchers collected exercise habits data from 413 individuals aged 25 to 65. The questionnaires were conducted by trained and qualified representatives of the sports administration department of the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. Participants shared details of their adolescent and adult exercise habits, demographic information and chronic diseases. Using the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines, the researchers analyzed the participants’ exercise habits by frequency, intensity, session time duration, type of exercise, total exercise amount and reasons why they did not exercise. They also tested participants’ cardiopulmonary function with a six-minute walk test, their muscle strength by 30-second sit-ups, muscle endurance by 60-second sit-ups, and flexibility by the distance between their fingertips to the ground when they performed a standing forward bend.

They found that adults’ exercise habits showed positive correlation with exercise habits in adolescence. The frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) of exercise habits in adolescence showed significant differences compared to adults. Adults who had good exercise habits had better cardiopulmonary function, muscle strength, muscle endurance and body-mass index (BMI). However, there were no differences in flexibility and percentage of chronic diseases between adults and teens.

 “In Taiwan, sarcopenia and frailty are important issues for patients treated by physiatrists,” said Dr. Chen. “Decreased muscle mass and strength with further functional decline were also noted in our study, and studies in Taiwan reveal that sarcopenia and frailty will increase significant medical costs.”

 

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The Association of Academic Physiatrists (AAP) is a professional society with a mission to create the future of academic physiatry through mentorship, leadership, and discovery. Its members are leading physicians, researchers, educators and in-training physiatrists from 35 countries. The AAP holds an Annual Meeting, produces a leading medical journal in rehabilitation: AJPM&R, and leads a variety of programs and activities that support and enhance academic physiatry. On March 4-9, 2020, the AAP is hosting the ISPRM World Congress in Orlando, Florida. To learn more about the association, the specialty of physiatry and the World Congress, visit physiatry.org and follow us on Twitter at @AAPhysiatrists.