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Genes tied to exercise benefits for elderly

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Everyone benefits from exercise, but new research suggests normal genetic variation explains why some older folks benefit more than others.

"We've known for a long time that people respond differently to exercise, but it isn't entirely clear why that is. This is a preliminary indication that we may be on to one one of the genetic determinants of exercise response," said Dr. Stephen Kritchevsky, the lead author of the study published in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. He is a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The study involved 3,075 volunteers who were age 70 through 79 and healthy when the study began in 1997. The group included 1,548 Memphians. The goal was to identify and possibly stop or reverse the typical aging American's route from independence to disability.

Earlier studies have found those who reported problems climbing 10 steps or walking a quarter-mile were almost four times more likely to wind up in a nursing home within two years than those who reported no difficulty. They were also three times more likely to die.

In this study, investigators found participants who exercised were more likely to remain mobile than their non-exercising contemporaries. Kritchevsky said those who benefited averaged at least 30 minutes of walking, biking, stair climbing or other activities nearly every day.

But those who enjoyed the greatest exercise benefit had inherited one of two particular variations of a gene known as the ACE gene. Those who inherited a third version didn't report the same benefit.

Kritchevsky said the findings echo earlier results involving younger adults. They also raise the prospect of someday using genetics to tailor exercise advice.

- Mary Powers: 529-2383

(C) 2005 The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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