(30 Aug 2019) Far from causing harm to themselves, elderly people can benefit from vigorous resistance exercise as long as they’re healthy.
That’s the finding of a small proof of concept study which put men aged between 65 and 80 through their paces at a gym.
As we get older our muscles, particularly those in our legs, vital for keeping us mobile, start to deteriorate.
This can begin in middle age.
Collective wisdom recommends exercise to counter weight problems and improve cardiovascular function throughout our lives along with a healthy diet.
Here in China exercise among all ages is encouraged and the elderly are happy to come here and limber up at the Temple of Heaven in the capital.
Hundreds of Beijing’s seniors engage in martial arts plus they lift weights, do push ups, hang from climbing frames, and dangle from rings every day.
Flipping up on top of the monkey bars, Yu Songwang grins and explains his intense daily exercise regimen.
For eight hours everyday, he swims, plays billiards, and climbs the jungle gym. Yu is 68 years old.
The retired farmer spends 4 hours every morning and 4 hours every evening keeping fit.
Yu believes building muscles keeps him independent physically and sharp mentally.
“I have nothing to do after retirement so I just come to do exercises. Don’t stay at home, how can one just stay at home, there is nothing to do, so you have to do more exercises. I go to the gym to swim for an hour (in the afternoon), then work on the muscles through various equipment, then billiards, I do whatever make me happy, happy every day. Don’t think of anything else” .
82 year old Wang Bingxiang is a retired warehouse worker.
She too has been keen to keep fit during retirement and says: “The children have grown up, my grand grandchild has already gone to school. There is nothing to do so I come and do exercises. I get up at five o’clock in the morning. Have breakfast at six and then go to do exercises. Normally 3.5-4 hours in the morning, and go back for lunch at noon, go out for a walk from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, I am over 80 now, what can I do, just go out and do exercises, try not to trouble my children.”
Now a new study from the University of Birmingham claims there can be significant improvements in muscle mass even in old age with resistance exercise, and even among people who’ve led sedentary lifestyles.
It might not come as news to the people here, but it did surprise study author Dr. Leigh Breen.
“We set out to understand whether individuals who’d been highly active all their lives, or master athletes as we call them, whether their muscles responded any better to a single bout of resistance exercise compared to your average Joe, your sedentary person, and what we found is that their muscles responded indentically to this bout of resistance exercise.”
Breen says the reason the results were the same might be because the elite group were trained in endurance rather than resistance.
A glaring omission from the study group was women.
Breen says another small study will begin separately on women this year because previous studies have shown that between the ages of fifty and sixty muscle response between men and women differs and women are believed to have a poorer response to resistance training in older age.
Breen admits the study was small. It involved fifteen men aged between 65 and 80.
Seven of the men were what Breen calls master athletes, people who’ve taken part in high level competitive sport throughout their lives.
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