Deakin University academics have developed a new approach to health and fitness that could revolutionize the way older Australians exercise and improve their well-being.
A “sports snack” – short bouts of regular bodyweight strength training at home for fitness fanatics – may be enough to maintain activity and improve quality of life for Australians aged 65 and over, researchers have found.
The exercise snack was a routine of five different exercises, such as single-leg knee bends, sit-stands, or single-leg quarter squats, performed for one minute straight with one-minute passive recovery breaks in between.
Dr Jackson Fyfe, program leader at the Deakin Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), says the key is to get at least one exercise a day.
Age-related declines in skeletal muscle mass, strength, power, and functional capacity can significantly affect independence later in life and the risk of disease and mortality.
Dr Fyfe said it was therefore imperative that the community worked to break down the traditional fitness barriers faced by older Australians and instill lasting healthy habits that would keep them mobile in later life.
“The benefits of exercise are well known, but despite this, only 6 percent of adults aged 50 and over meet current muscle resistance training guidelines,” Dr. Fyfe said.
“There are many reasons why people choose not to exercise. There could be cost factors, fear of injury, feeling like they don’t have enough time, being intimidated by the thought of using the gym, or simply a lack of interest and motivation to exercise.
“Our research found that by breaking down an exercise routine into bite-sized intervals of bodyweight movement that are simple enough to be done at home, people are more likely to stick to their program, feel more confident doing a new exercise, and find it rewarding. have a positive impact on their health.”
Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics show Australia’s population is aging due to rising life expectancy and falling fertility rates.
As of June 2020, there were an estimated 4.2 million older Australians aged 65 and over, with older people making up 16% of the population. By 2066, this proportion is expected to grow to 21% to 23%.
Dr Fyfe’s team recruited 38 male and female Melburnians aged 65 to 80 who had not done regular structured resistance training.
They divided the participants into four groups, one group did not exercise, one group exercised for five minutes a day, and two groups exercised five minutes twice a day or three times a day for four weeks.
The researchers were surprised to find that adherence was high in the exercise group, with 81 percent to 97 percent of participants sticking to their routines.
Of the study participants, 82 percent also said they planned to continue exercising after the study ended.
“Four weeks is not enough time to determine whether exercising and snacking are beneficial to the body, but there has been a lot of relevant research showing that minimal doses of resistance training can counteract the negative effects of aging and improve mental health,” Dr. Fyfe said.
“Australia has an aging population and we wanted to demonstrate that exercise interventions to help older people stay active and improve their health and wellbeing don’t need to be onerous.
“These findings suggest that it’s never too late to start exercising and that even small amounts of regular exercise can have positive effects.”
The full study, “Feasibility and acceptability of a teledelivered, home-based, pragmatic resistance ‘exercise snack’ intervention among community-based older adults: a pilot randomized controlled trial,” is published in the journal BMC Geriatrics.
Jackson J. Fyfe et al., Feasibility and acceptability of a remotely implemented, home-based, pragmatic resistance to “exercise snacking” intervention among community-based older adults: a pilot randomized controlled trial, BMC Geriatrics (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s12877-022-03207-z
Provided by Deakin University
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