Australia has an ageing population and the older adult population is the least active of all age groups. Unfortunately, older adults are also the age group with the biggest burden of disease. It would seem that Australia’s older adult population is missing out on many of the benefits of staying active.
Exercise has been shown to be effective in preventing and managing a number of conditions common in older adults including diabetes, chronic heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and disability as a result of a fall.
In Australia the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is estimated to be 7.4 per cent of the population, with a further 0.7-0.8 per cent of Australians being diagnosed with the condition every year.
Correctly prescribed exercise can be an effective tool for managing diabetes via a number of mechanisms. Acutely, exercise increases blood glucose uptake as glucose becomes the preferred fuel by the muscles during exercise.
In addition to this, muscle contractions increase GLUT4 translocation to the cell membrane, and increase the activity of glycogen synthase leading to increased glucose uptake for up to 24-72 hours post exercise. In the long term, regular exercise can also manage diabetes by causing an energy deficit leading to weight loss and the reduction of harmful metabolic visceral fat.
The prevalence of CHF in the Australian population is approximately 2.5 per cent of people aged 55–64 years, and 8.2 per cent of those aged 75 years and over.
Reduced aerobic capacity and exercise tolerance is characteristic of this population. CHF also has a negative impact on skeletal muscle structure and function, leading to reduced ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADLs).
However, exercise has been shown to improve VO2 peak (a measure of aerobic capacity), as well as muscle mass and strength, to significantly improve the quality of life in individuals with CHF.
It is estimated that in Australia approximately 14 per cent of the population over the age of 40 have COPD. Exercise has been shown to lower perceived dyspnoea, increase capacity to carry out ADLs and improve general quality of life in those with COPD. In addition to this, individuals with COPD frequently suffer from skeletal muscle dysfunction including atrophy, reduced strength, higher lactate levels, reduced capillarisation and oxidative capacity. Exercise plays an important role in correcting these factors.
Falls affect a large number of older adult Australians each year, with approximately 1 in 3 community-dwelling adults over 65 years falling one or more times per year.
Muscle strength and power, reaction time and balance can all be addressed with appropriate exercise thereby reducing the risk of falling by up to 34 per cent.
There is no doubt that exercise is good for health and the management of chronic disease in older adults, however the challenge is getting them to do it regularly.
This is where the exercise physiologist plays an important role in instructing, supporting and encouraging older adults to take up and maintain appropriate forms of exercise.
Embrace Exercise Physiology understands that it can sometimes be difficult for older adults to get ‘out and about’.
We also understand that many older adults feel uncomfortable and awkward in gym settings. That is why we offer in-home exercise rehabilitation, so that older adults can enjoy the benefits of exercise in a comfortable and familiar environment.
Embrace can be contacted on 0431 320 094
Fax: 02 6678 0444