Many people often don't realize the benefits of exercise and the effects it has on the human body other than the physical changes you see on the mirror. Scientists have constantly been doing research to see how the human body responds and adapts to exercise.
The good news exercise affects the human body in a more holistic manner, deeper from the surface of the muscles that makes us look sexy and strong. Changes from our brain and bone are seen even in the elderly.
#1 - Lowers Risk for Cognitive Impairement
In a study in done in 2001 (Laurin et al, 2001), Resarchers were looking for a relatioship between physical activity and the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
A large group (9008 older adults) were subjected to a clinical evaluation to test for normal cognitive function. In a 5-year follow-up, 4615 of the eligible subjects went through another evaluation, and were separated into three groups: no cognitive impairment, cognitive impairment without dementia, and having dementia.
Using the data from these subjects, the researchers compared the amount of physical activity in each group to see whether there was a link between exercise and cognitive impairment. The results suggest that physical activity was positively correlated with lower risks of cognitive impairment, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and all types of dementia.
#2 - Slows Down Brain Tissue Density Loss
Researchers in 2004 used magnetic resonance imaging techniques to look at brain tissue density in 55 older adults to look for any correlation between fitness and tissue density, more specifically, they were looking at the association between aerobic fitness in older adults and brain tissue density.
Their results were consistent with other experiments done previously.
It was shown that age had a negative correlation with brain tissue density. However, the data showed that aerobically fit adults showed reduced losses in brain tissue density. This suggest that exercise could slow down loss in brain tissue density, slowing down losses in cognitive function (Colcombe et al, 2003).
What does this mean?
Cognitive function basically refers to all the processes ocurring in the brain. Such processes like memory recall, reasoning, and attention. Exercise slows down the deterioration of the natural occuring brain tissue density loss.
#3 - Improves Social Lifestyle
Being physically active renders one to become acquainted with more people and somehow it triggers many to make a healthy lifestye change. Like when a person walks a dog.
A study (Cousins, 2001) that was implemeted to learn more about what triggers active female seniors to get, and stay, active and what semi and non active older adults use as reasoning behind their inactivity.
Specifically, researchers wanted to know how inactive seniors interpret triggers that motivate others to make healthy lifestyle changes.
The method used in this research was ‘thinking aloud’ in a guided interview. Among their many findings from this study, the researchers identified four social - cognitive themes that promoted elderly women to become more physically active; value in obtaining a goal, support, efficacy, and positive expectations.
If you own a dog, you can relate to this. Majority of the time, thorugh out your walking route, you end up talking to other dog lovers and having many others approach your dog to pet it, to the point of starting some small talk.
Basically, you end up being SOCIAL. If when you are doing something that is active (walking the dog, mowing the lawn) and you get the social interaction along with the values that was found in the study (value in obtaining a goal, support, efficacy, and positive expectations), the person is more likely to participate in that physical activity even more.
#4 - Resistance Training and Bone Health
In 2002, researchers were trying to examine the effects of strength training on bone mineral density (BMD) of the femoral neck.
Participants were randomly selected into a control group, low intensity and high intensity exercise groups. Bone mineral density was assessed using the non-invasive dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. Subjects were screened for medication usage, blood pressure, resting heart rate, a graded exercise test. All subjects were healthy.
Participants were subjected to 6 months of progressive strength training 3x/week for 24 weeks. Low intensity exercise group trained at 50% of their 1RM for 13 repetitions. High intensity group trained at 80% of their 1 RM for 8 repetitions. Control group did not train.
All participants were healthy 62 men and women age ranging from 62 to 74 years old.
The Results? Strength levels increased significantly for both the low and high intensity groups 17.2% and 17.8% respectively. An increase in BMD was seen in the low and high exercise intensity (1.96% for the high intense exercise)
Conclusion: Both high intensity and low intensity strength training was beneficial in improving bone mineral density of the femoral neck in elderly adults (Vincent et al, 2002).
Why would this matter?
It turns out that elderly folk are highly suceptible for slip and falls. If one's bone are weak, they are more likely to break a bone than a person whose bone has a higher bone mineral density.
An elderly person breaking a bone would force them into bed rest and this is where the decay of health gets worse over time. Patients who are at bed rest will now suffer more damaging issues susch as: muscular atrophy, thrombosis (a.k.a. blood clots)/arterial constrictions, reduction in bone mineral density.
#5 - Increase in Physical Activity
The results of a survey regarding older adults participation in community programs aimed at increasing seniors physical activity. Their findings:
Being physically active promotes more activity
Older adults are most likely to join community seniors programs when the opportunities are easy accessible.
Once involved, elderly who include the physical activity program into their weekly routine were active five or more days of the week, much higher than the nation average.
Lack of time, discipline and company were the biggest constraints to getting active (Cardenas et al 2009).
#6 - Improves Physical Independence
A randomized control trial (Kemmler et al, 2010) was set to measure changes in muscle mass, strength, body composition and functional abilities in elderly women for a period of 18 months.
This study involved 659 participants recruited by mail and ranged from 65-80 years olds. Assessors and participants were blinded to group assignment.
The Exercise program successfully prevented age-related loss of strength, loss of muscle mass and function in elderly women and was more successful than the “well-being” program (control group) which focused on relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
The study showed a significant increase in muscle power, trunk extension strength (low back strength) and increased aerobic fitness in the strength group.
What about Physical Independence?
Physical Independence is the ability to perform daily activities without being limited by an ailness and does not require the need of hospital or nursing care.
Improving a person's overall fitness level, increases their physical independence and reduces premature death. This adds more evidence to prove that exercise (aerobic and strength training) can improve an individual’s well-being and their physical independence or functional capacity.
#7 - Improves Gait Speed & Executive Functions
A random controlled trial by Liu- Ambrose et al. (2010) tested how exercise training positively influences executive functions.
A 12 month trial with 3 groups: control group (balance and toning), strength training group (1x/week), and a second strength training group (2x/week).
The findings of this study showed that both strength groups showed an increase in task performance and faster gait speed than those from the control group.
For those who love to work on their balance and tonning their muscles should prioritize on strength training more. Strength training with resistance wll
#8 - Walk More for Better Cognitive Function
The main objective of a study done in a 2004 study was to see if long-term regular physical activity (walking) can improve cognitive function in older female aged 70 to 81 years.
All subjects were contacted by mail (from years 1995-2001), 18766 females 70 years of age or older participated in the study, all were tested 2 years apart and contacted through telephone interviews.
The results showed that Women between 70 to 81 years who were more active showed less significant cognitive decline than those who walked for less than a 38min/week.
The women who were more active walked more than 1.5 hours per week at a pace of 21-30 min/mile. This study showed that long term physical activity including walking is associated with better cognitive function in elderly women. (Weuve et al, 2004)
#9 - Improve Physical Functioning in Elders with Dementia
A 2010 study reviewed the effects on physical functioning and basic activities in daily functioning in elderly subjects with dementia. It was found that physical activity is beneficial in all stages of dementia.
Multicomponent interventions (e.g. a combination of endurance, balance) led to larger improvements in gait speed, functional mobility and balance, compared to progressive resistance training alone.
Endurance improved but was only assessed in multi-component interventions. It was found that multicomponent interventions can improve physical functioning in elderly subjects regardless of the stage of dementia. The best results were obtained in the interventions with the largest training volume. (Blankevoort et al, 2010).
1. Blankevoort, C.G Van Heuvelen, M.G., Boersma, F., Luning, H., de Jong, J., & Scherder, E, A. (2010) Review of effects of physical activity on strength, balance, mobility and ADL performance in eldery subjects with dementia. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, 30(5), 392-402. Doi: 10.1159/000321357
2. Cardenas, D., Henderson, K. A., & Wilson, B. E. (2009). Physical activity and senior games participation: Benefits, constraints and behaviours. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 17, 135-153. Retrieved from http://journals.humankinetics.com.ezproxy.library. ubc.ca/AcuCustom/SiteName/Documents/DocumentItem/16881.pdf
3. Colcombe, S. J., Erickson, K. I., Raz, N., Webb, A. G., Cohen, N. J., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A. F. (2003). Aerobic fitness reduces brain tissue loss in aging humans. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 58 (2), M176-M180. doi: 10.1093/gerona/58.2.M176
4. Cousins, S. O. (2001). Thinking aloud: What older adults say about triggers for physical activity. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 9, 347-363. Retrieved from http:// journals.humankinetics.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/AcuCustom/SiteName/ Documents/DocumentItem/1496.pdf
5. Hsu, H., Wang, C., Chen, Y., Chang, M., & Wang, J. (2010). Evaluation of community-based aging intervention program. Educational Gerontology, 36(7), 547-572. Doi: 10.1080/03601270903237731
6. Kemmler, Wolfgang; von Stengel, Simon; Engelke, Klaus; Häberle, Lothar; Mayhew, Jerry L.; Kalender, Willi A. (2010). Exercise, Body Composition and Functional Ability: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Am J Prev Med 38(3):279 –287.
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8. Liu-Ambrose, Teresa; Nagamatsu, Lindsay S.; Graf, Peter; Beattie, B. Lynn; Ashe, Maureen C.; Handy, Todd C (2010). Resistance Training and Executive Functions a 12-Month Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. 170 (2):170-178.
9. Vincent, K. R; Braith R. W. Resistance exercise and bone turnover in elderly men and women. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise. Vol. 34, No. 1, 2002, pp. 17-23.
10. Weuve, Jennifer. Kang, Jae Hee. Manson, JoAnn E. Breteler, Monique M. B. Ware, James H. Grodstein, Francine (2004). Physical Activity, Including Walking, and Cognitive Function in Older Women. J.A.M.A. 292(12):1454-1461.