Exercise And Aging – What You Need To Know
Aging is currently the fastest-growing segment of our population. There are many evidence and researches clearly indicates that participation in a regular exercise program is an effective way to reduce and/or prevent a number of the functional declines associated with aging. Older adults have the ability to adapt and respond to both endurance and strength training which will greatly improve their daily functional capacity therefore improving their quality of life and extend independent living.
Loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) with age is well documented. A primary factor in sarcopenia is disuse of skeletal muscle, resulting in atrophy. Inactivity may also play a role, contributing to other factors affecting aging muscle mass. The consequences of sarcopenia can be extensive; individuals are more susceptible to falls and fractures, and may suffer an overall loss in the ability to perform everyday tasks.
Given an adequate training stimulus, older adults can make significant gains in strength. A two- to threefold increase in strength can be accomplished in three to four months of training in older adults. With increasing muscle strength come increased levels of spontaneous activity in both healthy, independent older adults and very old and frail men and women. Strength training, in addition to its possible effects on insulin action, bone density, energy metabolism, and functional status, is also an important way to increase levels of physical activity in the older adult.
Over the years, we have learned that older persons can adapt to a program of regular aerobic training as well as their younger counterparts. Older adults can achieve the same 10 to 30 percent increase in VO2max (maximal oxygen consumption) response to endurance exercise training as young adults. The increase in VO2max in older adults is a result of improvements in both maximal cardiac output and a-v O2 (maximal arteriovenous oxygen) difference. In addition, improvements in submaximal endurance capacity and the greater ability to tolerate higher levels of physical activity are important training adaptations. Aerobic exercise could also help reduces resting blood pressure and cholesterol level therefore decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Aging is a multi-faceted process in which a variety of factors interact (genetics, lifestyle, disease) and frequently is associated with reduced functional capacity and chronic illness. Older adults can safely participate in regular exercise programs (aerobic and strength). Regular physical activity has been shown to elicit a number of favorable adaptations that contribute to healthy aging. Additional benefits include improved bone health and thus reductions in risk for osteoporosis; improved postural stability, reducing the risk of falling; and increased flexibility and range of motion. Together, these benefits associated with regular exercise and physical activity will contribute to a healthier, more independent lifestyle, greatly improving functional capacity and quality of life for the fastest-growing segment of our population.