Ageing well – Physical activity & strength training for older people

Many people know about the benefits of physical activity such as walking, swimming or cycling, but older people should also include a strength training component in their exercise program.

Regular physical activity provides many general health benefits, including: improved heart and lung function, circulation and weight control. It even helps to reduce depression, improve memory, and assists with improved glycaemic control in diabetes.

In addition, physical activity has many positive benefits for the musculoskeletal system in older people. A systematic review of several research studies relating to the benefits of physical activity concluded that, for people aged 40-65 years, physical activity improved endurance, muscle strength and balance. The same review also found that physical activity programs which included resistance training were more effective in improving muscle strength. Other studies involving resistance training for older people have demonstrated improvements in bone density, reduced symptoms associated with osteoporosis, improved functional levels in osteoarthritis and reduced risk of falls. Walking alone is not enough to obtain these benefits.

Another conclusion from recent research is that exercise programs should incorporate resistance training exercises of a higher intensity than has generally been used in programs for older people – even in programs when strengthening exercises are prescribed. However, high intensity is not synonymous with dangerous or uncomfortable. Resistance training exercises can take many forms including: body weight exercises, free weights, machines, elastic cords and tubing. So, whether your goal is to increase your mobility, improve your golf swing or reduce pain, Active Rehab’s Physiotherapists can develop a safe, effective strengthening program, that takes into consideration your individual needs and limitations!

Ferreira ML, Sherrington C, Smith K, Carswell P, Bell R, Bell M, Nascimento DP, Máximo Pereira LS, Vardon P (2012). Physical activity improves strength, balance and endurance in adults aged 40–65 years: a systematic review. Journal of Physiotherapy 58: p. 145–156.

Sherrington C, Whitney J, Lord S, Herbert R, Cumming R, Close J (2008). Effective Exercise for the Prevention of Falls: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 56: p. 2234–2243.

Table of Contents