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Health Spotlight: Regular routines may help older adults be happier

(Photo from Video Aired on WISH)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Starting the day earlier, especially as people age, offers benefits.

Early to bed, early to rise, not only makes a person wealthy and wise, but healthy, too, especially if they’ve older than 65.

New research suggests activities that may be within a person’s control, such as keeping a regular sleep routine for older adults, may lead to better mental health.

Dr. Stephen Smagula of the University of Pittsburgh said, “Not all activity and not all sleep is created the same.”

Smagula, an associate professor of psychiatry and an assistant professor of epidemiology, and his colleagues analyzed data from 1,800 adults older than 65 for a study in which they wore these devices to record their movement. They found 30% had no set pattern to their sleep and activity routines.

“So, if your pattern was disrupted, you were more than twice as likely to have significant depression symptoms.”

Another 32% got up at the same time but only had mild activity for 13 hours during the day. This group had some symptoms of depression, and also scored lower on cognition.

Finally, 38% had what Smagula calls a robust pattern, with 15 hours of activity each day.

“Now, the people with strong rhythms were getting up the same time every day, before 7 o’clock, and then, throughout the day, they were very active and engaged, and they intended to go down and rest at the same time every day.”

The adults with the regular sleep and robust activity patterns were happier and had better cognitive functioning, suggesting routine matters.

Smagula says the first step he suggests for older adults is to get up at the same time every day, no matter how tired they are. He says that most people think about intensity when they think of activity, but the research suggests that the duration of activity matters more, meaning older adults should find ways to stay engaged throughout the day.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.