‘Exercise is Medicine’ – The Benefit of Resistance Training in Older Adults
The phrase ‘Exercise is a Medicine’ is becoming an extremely well supported approach in the day to day management of patients. The number of Sports Therapists, GP’s, Strength and Conditioners a like promoting sport and physical activity at any age has improved dramatically in recent years. Last year Frenchman Robert Marchand’s name became renowned for his incredible achievement of setting a new track cycling world record… at 105 years of age! Can these stories challenge how we view healthy ageing and the capabilities of our older population?
Well, it is a known fact that as we get older we begin to lose muscle mass, approximately 1% every year. However, more importantly the decline in muscle strength declines at a rate 3-times greater. This reduction in muscle strength can have significant consequences, such as being associated with a reduced quality of life/function, increased risk of chronic disease and mortality.
Current studies show by the age of 74, only 42% of men and 22% of women can walk for greater than 30 minutes without difficulty; and similarly, because of low strength, 25% of women and 7% of men of this age are at risk of being unable to get out of a low chair.
But should we accept this as our fate? Exercise has been shown to prevent, reverse or at least slow this age-related decline. A study including resistance training with 9 elderly people living in a nursing home saw an average increase in strength gains of 174% after just 8 weeks. Other studies have shown the same medicine (exercise) can reduce the risk of mortality by 81%, specifically a 43% reduction in cancer mortality and the risk of going in to a nursing home by 84%. Furthermore resistance training promotes cognitive and brain plasticity reducing the progression of dementia and the magnitude of the benefit can actually exceed that of pharmaceutical approaches.
It is quite clear that exercise, specifically resistance training should be promoted as a vital component of healthy aging. But how much should you do? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises that everyone, including older adults do at least 2 days of progressive resistance training a week, which is to be performed at a moderate (5 – 6) to high/hard (7 – 8) intensity on a scale of 0 to 10, involving the major muscle groups of the body. Take control of your health and aging by including strength/resistance training into your schedule! Not only will it add years to your life, but life to your years!
Goodpaster, B.H., et al., The loss of skeletal muscle strength, mass, and quality in older adults: the health, aging and body composition study. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2006. 61(10): p. 1059-1064. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17077199
Boyle, P.A., et al., Association of Muscle Strength with the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and the Rate of Cognitive Decline in Community-Dwelling Older Persons. Archives of neurology, 2009. 66(11): p. 1339-1344. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838435/
Artero, E.G., et al., 2011. A prospective study of muscular strength and all-cause mortality in men with hypertension. J Am Coll Cardiol. 57(18), pp 1831-1837