EXERCISE – YOUR PERSONAL FITNESS TRAINER HAS THE ANSWERS
The surgeon General has issued a
report warning people-including
older adults-that physical inactivity is a
major risk to their health.
The aging of
population has created a large group of older adults who are even more
susceptible to the detrimental effects of physical inactivity than are
younger people. This is not news to those of us in the fitness
industry, but many of us are not prepared to deal with this growing
segment of the population.
So, first lets
look at a
few statistics. In the year 2000, roughly 35 million people (13 percent
of the population) were age 65 or older. By 2030, the number is
expected to double to 70 million. According to the Active Aging
Partnership National Blueprint, 88% of these people have at least one
chronic health condition that in many cases may be improved or managed
with physical activity. They also report that 35%-50% of women age
70-80 have difficulty with general mobility tasks like walking a few
blocks, climbing a flight of stairs or doing housework. Dr. Mark
Williams, who is a professor at Creighton University of Medicine in
Omaha, says this statistic reports a disproportionate amount of women,
because although women make up about 60% of the elderly population
(>65years), the female predominance increases exponentially
age 65 since women tend to live longer than men. Women who reach age 65
have an additional life expectancy of 19 years, compared with less than
16 years for men of the same age.
physical prime of their teens and 20’s, they lose an average
10 ounces of lean body mass a year, and this is mostly in the form of
muscle tissue. And since few people actually lose 10 ounces of weight a year,
instead, most gain about
a pound a year, the loss of lean tissue is masked. Another way to look at this
is the average person gains about 1 pound and 10 ounces of body fat per year. It is a process that is more insidious and crippling than
osteoporosis but one few people notice until they realize it is getting
difficult to climb the stairs or heft themselves off the sofa.
Unchecked, the gradual loss of muscle strength is the main reason
elderly Americans have difficulty performing the tasks of daily living
and ultimately lose their independence. This phenomenon, which we call
sarcopenia, derived from Greek words for “vanishing
is NOT an inevitable consequence of aging.
It is instead an inevitable consequence of disuse.
reason for older people to strength train is that evidence suggests
that exercise may decrease the rate of bone loss associated with
osteoporosis and reduce the likelihood of falls that result in hip
fractures. A frightening statistic is that almost 24% of people over
age 50 who have hip fractures die within a year. Falling is a serious
public health concern among elderly people because of its frequency,
the morbidity associated with falls, and the cost of the necessary
healthcare. According to Dr. Mary Tinetti, Yale University,
approximately 30% of the people who live in the community fall each
year. Unintentional injury, which most often results from a fall, ranks
as the sixth leading cause of death among people over 65 years of age.
Muscle weakness has been identified as one of the biggest potentially
modifiable risk factors for falling. In the late 80’s, early
90’s, studies began being done which proved that despite a
decrease in muscle fibers and strength, muscle function can be
maintained and or improved with training, even in the very old.
increase in muscle
strength at any age can improve quality of life-and stave off the
frailty that used to be considered a normal part of getting old. While
strength training is not the only type of exercise that is important
for older adults, it should be easy to understand that the frailer a
person becomes, the greater the importance of strength training. And
sometimes, strength training and flexibility are the only types of
exercise in which the elderly can engage until they gain enough muscle
strength to allow them to work on their endurance or aerobic capacity,
and balance. In an article by Wayne Westcott, PhD, published in the
October 1995 issue of American
twelve health and fitness benefits were outlined that result from
strength training by older adults. They were, avoid muscle loss, avoid
metabolic rate reduction, increase muscle mass, increase metabolic
rate, reduce body fat, increase bone mineral density, increase glucose
metabolism, increase gastrointestinal transit, reduce resting blood
pressure, improve blood lipids levels, reduce low back pain, and reduce
strength training have been discussed exclusively to this point, older
inactive adults also loose ground in three other areas that are
important for staying healthy and independent, these are endurance,
balance and flexibility. Endurance training can maintain and improve
cardiovascular function and can reduce risk factors associated with
chronic diseases associated with aging such as diabetes, colon cancer,
heart disease, stroke, and others and reduce overall death and hospital
rates. Balance exercises help to prevent falls and flexibility
exercises help to keep the body limber by stretching muscles and
tissues that hold the body’s structure in place. Flexibility
also play a part in preventing falls.
Some types of
improve just one area of health or ability, but more often, an exercise
has many different benefits. So, elderly adults should be encouraged to
increase both the types and amounts of exercise and physical activity they do. According to an article in
the winter 2002 newsletter, Aging
published by the St Louis School of Medicine and Geriatric Research,
for the older adult, the goals of exercise should be to minimize the
effects of aging and chronic diseases; to reverse the effects of
disuse; and to maximize psychological health. This is different than
those of younger adults for whom exercise helps prevent disease and
increase life expectancy.
So in summary,
traditional thinking, regular exercise helps, not hurts, most older
adults. Older people become sick or disabled more often from not exercising than from exercising. Almost all older adults, regardless of
age or condition, can safely improve their health and independence
through exercise and physical activity. There are few reasons to keep
them from exercising, and “too old” and
frail” are not among them!!
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