Loss of muscle strength, speed and dexterity is a common consequence of aging, and a well-established risk factor for death, disability and dementia. Yet little is known about how and why motor decline occurs when it is not a symptom of disease. Motor functions enable us to act and move.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center have found that, among the elderly, less frequent participation in social activities is associated with a more rapid decline in motor function. “It’s not just running around the track that is good for you,” said Dr. Aron Buchman. “Our findings suggest that engaging in social activities may also be protective against loss of motor abilities.”
These results raise the possibility that motor function decline can be slowed by encouraging people to engage in social activities, such as doing volunteer work, visiting friends or relatives, or attending church or sporting events.
“There is gathering evidence that physical activity is only one component of an active and healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown, for example, that increased cognitive and social activities in the elderly are associated with increased survival and a decreased risk of dementia,” Buchman said. “Our study extends these findings, showing that social activity late in life is closely linked with healthy motor function.”