I’m often asked if older people can benefit from physical activity. Can there be fitness improvements in an 80 or 90 year old person who begins structured physical activity? The answer is simply ‘yes’. It’s true that as we get older the body’s systems may not work as well as they once had, however the principles of adaptation still remain the same regardless of age. If we instigate a change, say for example we begin doing strengthening exercises which act on the musculoskeletal system, then it will respond with adaptions via the same mechanisms that operate within a 20 or 30 year old body. An older body still contains muscle fibres (albeit less than a younger body), connective tissue, blood, mitochondria and other organelles- and these are still working every day at some capacity.
There may be limitations in the older person but there is still potential. One of my clients who is 95 years of age, has seen significant subjective improvements in mobility and strength by engaging in 45 minutes of structured physical activity once a week for the past 9 months. This client can’t stand to miss a session, as the improvements she (and I) have noticed by engaging in this exercise has improved her quality of life and her ability to remain independent. This is just one example from those aged 80+ who have seen the benefits from structured physical activity, and who continue to care for themselves and their quality of life.
If you’re interested in becoming more active, it is best to contact you GP and Exercise Physiologist prior to starting an exercise regime in order to ensure that you get qualified knowledge to exercise safely and effectively.