Training for the older population

Staying fit, strong and healthy is extremely important for the older population. There are many physiological and psychological medical conditions that can arise from age such as Alzheimers, Osteoperosis, Muscular Atrophy and more. Perhaps the most important goal for aging populations is the ability to remain independent, that is to say that they can function day to day without the need for help from other people. In this blog I shall breifly explain the benefits of training to the elderly.

Strength & Conditioning training is designed so that people can perform better. Not only can individuals produce more force voluntarily, but their bodies are better at delaying the effects of fatigue. These benefits are not only for the sporting athlete, but also the general population - including the elderly.

Ensuring one remains independent one must be able to freely move around, pick up items, sit and stand up all by oneself. Effective and appropiate training interventions have been proven to be extremely productive in the persuit for independence. In a study by E. Paul Roetert PHD - he explains how rising from a chair is a very physically demanding activity because "it involves a dynamically unstable position" (the transistion between sitting and standing). He explains that there are two main ways of rising from a chair.

1) Creating a relatively large amount of horizontal momentum prior to lifting off the seat (momentum strategy)

2) Corporates a prepositioning of the torso and lower extremeties so that the horizontal distance between the current centre of mass and the new base of support is lessened prior to lift off (stabilisation strategy).

A study of 38 people (14 men and 24 women aged between 60 and 90) was done to evaluate sit to stand performance. After an eight week strength programme that included Bench Press, Lateral Row, Tricep Press, Bicep Curls, Seated Leg Press, Hip flexion and extension, abduction and adduction and ankle strengthening work the results were conclusive. The older adults acquired significant strength gains and showed much better ability to stand from a seated position. This shows just how beneficial strength training can be for the older population.

Of course considerations need to be made when training an elderly person. A potential loss of muscular strength, mobility, bone strength, joint integrity and confidence must be kept in mind when prescribing training interventions.

There is also the pyschological benefit to training that must be highlighted. An article by Scott Riewald PHD showed that regular exercise can be beneficial for a number of reasons.

- Aerobic exercise improves performance in executive control tasks

- Regular exercise can reverse the effects of dementia

- Resistance training may promote neuronal growth and/or prevent cognitive decline

- Resistance training may promote cognitive function

- Aerobic exercise can preserve brain volume

In the study it goes into more detail - but the article has shown how benefical again exercise can be for the aging population.

In conclusion, it is clear that health and fitness is extremely important for EVERYONE. You may have more constraints on your training such as lack of mobility, injury and/or pyschological problems - but the evidence available has shown that exercise is nothing but good for the elderly (not really surprising)

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