We’d probably all be in better shape with a personal trainer to dole out exercise recommendations catered to our body and preferences. So it’s no wonder that a group of people over the age of 75 who were given personalized exercise programs experienced gains not just in muscle, but in mind, life quality and general functioning, according to a new study.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at 370 people ages 75-plus over the course of three years. All participants were patients in a hospital and started the study with personalized strength, balance and walking exercises created to accommodate their particular condition. Typically in a hospital, the focus is on disease and encourages bed rest, the study authors said. But these patients were given a training program utilizing between 30 and 60 percent of their muscular capacity that focused on leg and arm exercises. The 20-minute sessions were conducted twice per day for five to seven consecutive days.
Even though participants were in various stages of health, the programs didn’t lead to complications in their diseases; in fact, it was found to be “a significant support in preventing frailty, a factor in eliminating complications linked to passive stay in hospital and a means of motivation for overcoming disease,” said Nicolás Martínez-Velilla and Mikel Izquierdo, researchers at Navarrabiomed, the biomedical research centre of the Government of Navarre and the Public University of Navarre.
“Our study shows that intervention involving, innovative, personalized multicomponent physical exercise that includes moderate intensity endurance training over a very short period of time, five days on average, has a significant benefit on routine care and may help to reverse the functional and cognitive deterioration associated with the hospitalization of the elderly,” said the study authors.
When the adults in the program left the hospital, on average they scored higher on tests that measure function and strength than their counterparts who did not exercise. Compared to those who did not have an exercise regimen, they scored 2.2 points above the average on a maximum score of 12 in the SPPB (Short Physical Performance Battery) functional assessment tool, a test which measures balance, walking speed and leg strength, and 6.9 points above the average score in the Barthel Functional Index for Activities of Daily Living, which has a maximum score of 100 points.
Quality of life and cognitive function also improved, the study authors pointed out.
“Until now, no one had suggested that patients of this type (elderly people with a range of diseases) could benefit in just five days from a personalized exercise program far removed from the usual message of ‘get up and walk along the corridor a little’ or ‘rest in bed or in an armchair,” explained the head of the Geriatric Service at the CHN.
However, the exercise program didn’t change levels of readmittance or affect the chances of mortality within three months’ time. But the authors emphasized that it was quality of life, not quantity, that they aimed to improve.
“Sometimes we believe that improvements in technologies or the latest innovative treatment can provide all the solutions for our problems, but we are not aware that disability generated by hospitalization may exert a greater impact than the very disease that prompted admittance in the first place. In this respect the hugely positive effect that physical exercise can have on disease prevention and treatment is reiterated,” said Izquierdo.