Don’t let stiff joints and general aches and pains put you off keeping fit when you reach retirement age and beyond. A new study has found that people well into their 90s can still benefit enormously from regular strength and endurance training. The study found working out twice a week over three months provides significant improvements in flexibility, strength, balance and stamina – even at the age of 96.
However, vigorous exercises that improve strength were found to have far more benefit for those over 90 than less strenuous mobility training.
In 2013, 237 people over the age of 70 and a further 12 people over the age of 80 took part in the Virgin London Marathon, covering 26.2 miles of London tarmac. Veteran endurance sports are becoming more popular as older people look for new activities in their retirement.
Researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain trained and tested a group of 24 people, aged 91 to 96, for a 12 week period. One group of 11 trained twice a week, carrying out vigorous exercises to improve strength and balance, while the second group of 13 carried out 30 minutes of less strenuous mobility training, including gentle stretching and flexibility exercises.
Exercise training raised their functional capacity, lowered the risk of falls, and improved muscle power.
At the end of the three-month experiment, the first group showed a significant improvement in walking speed, hip and knee flexibility. Their muscle mass had also increased, they found it easier to get out of their chairs and they were less likely to fall over. Unsurprisingly, the group that did less strenuous exercise showed far less progress.
Professor Mikel Izquierdo, who led the research, said: “The training raised their functional capacity, lowered the risk of falls, and improved muscle power. In addition to the significant increases in the physical capacity of frail elderly people, the study has shown that power training can be perfectly applied to the elderly with frailty.
“From a practical point of view, the results of the study point to the importance of implementing exercise programmes in patients of this type, exercises to develop muscle power, balance and walking. It would be beneficial to apply exercises of this type among vulnerable elderly people to prevent the impact of ageing, improve their wellbeing and help them to adapt to the society in which they live.”
The study was published in the journal, Age. A previous study by researchers at University College London, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that people who keep fit in their 60s are seven times less likely to get ill. The study tracked the health of 3,500 people aged over 64 for eight years. Researchers found a direct link between major health problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and the amount of exercise done. Those who regularly undertook moderate or vigorous physical activity at least once a week were much more likely to be ‘healthy agers’, than those who remained inactive. Even those that first became physically active during the monitoring period were three times more likely to be healthy in older age.
If you are a fitness instructor or personal trainer that is interested in working with senior clients, why not take a look at our Level 3 Older Adults Qualification?