“Our findings demonstrate that exercise can lead to improvements in functional fitness even among very old, previously sedentary individuals” said Andel. “It’s never too late to work out.”
According to Andel, the volunteers included 45 women and 19 men from an independent living facility. The participants averaged 83.5 years of age, ranging in age from 66 to 96. All received pretests and posttests that measured aspects of their fitness. Volunteers were divided into a walking group, a resistance training group and a control group that did not exercise. Trained instructors provided supervision for the volunteers through warm-up, stretching and flexibility exercises and their subsequent work-outs on resistance training machines.
“Physical inactivity correlates to an accelerated depletion of function and deficits in muscle strength and neuromuscular activity, which can in turn lead to decreased functioning and increases in frailty and falls,” explained Andel. “While little is known about the benefits of exercise among those older than 80, they are the fastest growing age group in the U.S.”
Gerontologists suggest that preserving strength and agility will keep seniors healthier longer and enable them to better perform activities of daily living (ADLS).
“Both the walking and resistance training groups benefited, even in areas that were not trained. Our findings suggest that, in advanced old age, the benefits of exercise may be rather universal and less exercise-specific than earlier in life,” concluded Andel. “Growing evidence suggests that physical activity can off-set age-related functional decline and preserves independence longer into old age.”