New Research By The Hartford And MIT AgeLab Shows Positive Effects Of Exercise On Mature Drivers

older driver (select to view enlarged photo)

HARTFORD, CT--April 2, 2013: Exercise can enhance certain aspects of flexibility and range of motion for mature drivers according to The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and MIT AgeLab's Exercise for Mature Drivers research.

“Driving can be essential to older adults' sense of independence and autonomy. We encourage drivers to consider exercise as one way to stay safe on the road over a lifetime.”

"Our focus with this research was to examine the impact physical exercise might have on driving skills as you age," said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. "Driving can be essential to older adults' sense of independence and autonomy. We encourage drivers to consider exercise as one way to stay safe on the road over a lifetime."

Drivers in the study who were asked to exercise daily for eight to ten weeks:

  • Reported greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or to back up;
  • Were able to rotate their bodies further to scan the driving environment while making right hand turns; and
  • Were able to get into their cars more rapidly, demonstrating increased overall flexibility.

"We know that exercise is valuable as we age, but we were interested in looking at connections to specific driving issues associated with aging," said Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, director of MIT AgeLab. "Our research contributes to a better understanding of the impact that exercise may have on driving skills as you age, and it provides simple exercises that can help contribute to a more positive driving experience."

The new research also includes a companion survey of drivers 50+, which found that half have not considered how exercise might be beneficial to their ability to drive. Those surveyed identified the physical aspects they find the most challenging when it comes to driving. The leading factors for drivers:

  • Turning their head and body to look behind when backing up (41%);
  • Getting in and out of the car (22%); and
  • Turning their head to see blind spots when changing lanes (19%).

The Hartford and MIT AgeLab tracked experienced drivers ages 60-74 as part of a randomized controlled study and armed them with physical fitness programs to practice for 15-20 minutes daily using Microsoft Kinect for Xbox systems. The exercise program focused on four areas -- flexibility, range of motion, strength and coordination. Participants' driving skills were assessed before and after the exercise program with a combination of in-lab tests, a driving simulator and the instrumented MIT AgeLab Aware Car.

The Hartford and MIT AgeLab suggest a two-step action plan to empower drivers to exercise as part of an overall driving wellness plan.

1. Check with your health care provider on the best exercise plan for you. Review our list of exercises and come up with your own plan.

2. Follow a regular exercise program. Connect with friends, build it into your calendar, and make sure you spend at least 15-30 minutes a day being active.

About MIT AgeLab
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLabĀ is a global research program based within MIT's Engineering Systems Division and Center for Transportation & Logistics. The AgeLab conducts research on technology, behavior and innovation to improve the quality of life of older adults and those who care for them. More about AgeLab's research in transportation, health and wellness, and longevity planning is available at MIT Agelab .

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