A Message For My Fellow Baby Boomers (Effective Exercise Training)

I’m currently working on an additional certification “Physical Activity Instruction of Older Adults” (50 – 100). Yes, I do fall into this category despite the fact that I do not feel the least bit old and am fitter and in better shape today than I was 30 years ago. Every day for the next 17 years, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 and despite the fact that the level of fitness can vary dramatically from person to person, as a group, we boomers are living longer and making quality of life a priority. This makes us one of the most significant groups in our population/economy and warrants our getting consistent, accurate information on what the most effective exercise training is for us as individuals.

“Effective exercise-training programs may prevent or reverse bone loss at the lumbar spine and femoral neck (hip) of pre- and postmenopausal women by almost 1% per year. For bone modeling to result from exercise, however, the intensity of the stimulus appears to be more important than its frequency. Greater loads and fewer repetitions result in greater gains in bone mass than lower loads repeated more times. Weight-bearing endurance exercise and resistance exercise have both been found to increase bone mass at clinically relevant sites (hip, spine, wrist) in older men and women, but only when the exercise is quite vigorous. Activities of low to moderate intensity have had mixed results in elderly adults; appreciable gains in strength but variable changes in bone density have been documented.

Exercises that introduce skeletal stress through ground-reaction forces (e.g., walking, jogging, and stair climbing) appear to be more effective for building bone in the femoral neck, a common fracture site, than those that introduce skeletal stress through joint-reaction forces (e.g. weightlifting and rowing). Both types of exercises, however, effectively increase bone density of the whole body, lumbar spine, and proximal femur.

Beth Pirtle

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