Exercise training guidelines for the elderly

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Abstract

Purpose:

We have recently demonstrated that resistance training has a positive effect on multiple risk factors for osteoporotic fracture in previously sedentary postmenopausal women.

Methods:

Because the sedentary lifestyle of a long-term care facility may exacerbate losses of muscle function, we have applied this same training program to frail, institutionalized elderly men and women.

Results:

In a population of 100 nursing home residents, a randomly assigned high-intensity strength-training program resulted in significant gains in strength and functional status. In addition, spontaneous activity, measured by activity monitors, increased significantly in those participating in the exercise program whereas there was no change in the sedentary control group. Before the strength training intervention, the relationship of whole body potassium and leg strength was seen to be relatively weak (r2 = 0.29, P < 0.001), indicating that in the very old, muscle mass is an important but not the only determining factor of functional status.

Conclusions:

Thus, exercise may minimize or reverse the syndrome of physical frailty, which is so prevalent among the most elderly. Because of their low functional status and high incidence of chronic disease, there is no segment of the population that can benefit more from exercise than the elderly.

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