Exercise Programs for Older Adults. Part 3

Thursday, September 27, 2012 11:58
Posted in category Fitness

After eight weeks of training, researchers from several Boston-area universities and hospitals concluded that a “high-intensity weight-training program is capable of inducing dramatic increases in muscle strength in frail men and women up to 96 years of age.”(17) A strength gain of 174 percent in eight weeks was realized, muscle size was increased and mobility was improved.

Reaction time. Past studies have shown that muscular response (how fast a muscle reacts) slows with age due to shrinkage of the brain cells that control the movement. However, a study of 70-year-old women who exercised three times a week for 15 years found that they had the same response times as inactive college women.(6,13)

Flexibility. Older adults tend to have an increase in joint stiffness and a decrease in flexibility, since the surfaces of the joints degenerate with age, and the amount and thickness of synovial fluid (the lubricant of the joint) also decreases with age. Regular exercise has been shown to increase joint flexibility and balance, and decrease falls and joint pain in most adults.(18)

Psychosocial. In addition to physiological benefits, older adults can experience psychological and social benefits as byproducts of regular vigorous exercise, since brain nerve cell proliferation is enhanced by social interactions, exploration and physical activity.(9) Benefits of exercise include improved self-confidence and self-esteem, a better ability to handle change, an improved sense of well-being and independence, and decreased feelings of anxiety, tension and isolation.(14)

Program guidelines

Goals. General goals for an exercise program for older adults should be to have a safe and secure exercise program and medium; to offer the opportunity to maintain and acquire new friendships, skills and interests; and to help seniors maintain self-esteem and feel useful. To do this, the fitness professional should design the program to include social opportunities and events. Also, using partners during exercise, sharing stories and having participants touch each other (as with a back rub, linking arms for a “swing your partner” or grasping hands in a circle) can all be beneficial to older adults.

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