Fitness DVDs can play an important role in senior health

Fitness videos and DVDs have long been used to give seniors a leg up on healthy aging, and while they are popular among the retired population, it has been unclear just how effective they are. However, a new study out of the University of Illinois suggests that drawing exercise instruction from DVDs can help seniors stay healthy.

The findings, which were published recently in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, are based off an analysis of more than 300 older adults. One half of the participants received a fitness video that focused on flexibility, toning and balance, while the other half got a video offering basic tips for healthy living. 

Over the course of six months, study subjects were asked to maintain daily exercise logs and given regular phone calls offering support. At the end of the trial, the researchers found those who stuck with the fitness video improved their performance on a number of health-related tests. Specifically, they noted everything from an increase in strength to an improvement in gait and balance. The results are particularly important given that the over-65 population is increasing by about 10,000 a day, experts note.

"This has important implications for an increasingly elderly population who are at risk for subsequent declines in function and increased disability," said study leader Edward McAuley. "We now know that this type of program can help to prevent that decline, and possibly reverse it."

Physical activity is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, whether they get exercise by heading to the gym or following a DVD. In fact, a 2012 study from The Archives of Neurology found that even something as simple as a 30-minute walk each day could stave off Alzheimer's disease.