Long-Term Exercise Programs Mean Long Lasting Benefits
Written by: Ms Eleanor Alden, Research Analyst, ASPIRE55 Singapore
Research has revealed that Long term physical exercise programs have long lasting and profound effects on the physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being of older adults.
Exercise is a very important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, regular training can promote muscle growth, reduce the risk of heart disease, increase energy levels, speed-up metabolism, and enhance cognitive health. For older people, regular exercise is especially important as it can protect against age-related physical and cognitive decline. However, for adults who may have never committed to a regular exercise program, or haven’t in a long time, getting started and staying motivated can be especially difficult.
One of the biggest challenges older people face when starting an exercise program is the lack of quick results (Robbinson). This can be disheartening; however, many reports show that in older populations, the most profound and long-lasting benefits of exercise are reaped after 3 months of regular training (Oliveira Gonçalves et al., 2019; Rekrotova et al., 2020; Nagamatsu et al., 2012). These findings are relatively consistent across studies involving dance training, resistance training, circuit training, and aerobic training.
It should be mentioned that each style of exercise has a different influence on the physical and cognitive health of older people. For example, resistance training may promote muscle growth, increase metabolism, and/or enhance overall strength, whereas aerobic training may have a greater effect on fitness levels and fat burning (Nagamatsu et al., 2012). Each exercise style is different, which provides an exciting amount of possibilities to choose from depending on your personal goals!
In another study, it was found that after a year of circuit training, older adults were able to maintain improvements in balance and mobility for 6-12 months after the program had ended. Even more exciting, was the improvements in cognitive functions (memory, learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, etc.) which lasted up to 2 years after the program had ended (Erickson et al., 2011).
Although getting started is difficult and a lack of quick results can be disheartening, older people should keep in mind that dedication to long-term programs (3 months and longer) can strengthen their bodies to protect against a fall, improve physical functioning, and strengthen their minds to protect against cognitive decline.
By committing to a regular, long term exercise program, older people are investing their time into caring for their physical and cognitive well-being. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, it is important now more than ever for older people to maintain their overall health and well-being. Because of this, it is recommended that older adults remain inside and socially distant. Joining a fitness group on zoom is a great way to substitute regular gym-based programs, and with creative usage of your own body weight, elastic bands, and household items, it is very possible to get a great workout at home!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 11). Benefits of Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.
Erickson, K. I., Voss, M. W., Prakash, R. S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., Kim, J. S., Heo, S., Alves, H., White, S. M., Wojcicki, T. R., Mailey, E., Vieira, V. J., Martin, S. A., Pence, B. D., Woods, J. A., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A. F. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 3017–3022. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1015950108
Nagamatsu, L. S., Handy, T. C., Hsu, L., Voss, M., Liu-Ambrose, T., (2012). Resistance Training Promotes Cognitive and Functional Brain Plasticity in Seniors With Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(8), 666. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.379
Oliveira Gonçalves, I., Bandeira, A. N., Coelho-Júnior, H. J., Silva Aguiar, S. D., Minucci Camargo, S., Yukio Asano, R., & Batista Júnior, M. L. (2019). Multicomponent Exercise on Physical Function, Cognition and Hemodynamic Parameters of Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Quasi-Experimental Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(12), 2184. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16122184
Rektorova I, Klobusiakova P, Balazova Z, et al. Brain structure changes in nondemented seniors after six‐month dance‐exercise intervention. Acta Neurol Scand. 2020;141:90–97. https://doi.org/10.1111/ane.13181
Robinson, L. Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips. HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/exercise-and-fitness-as-you-age.htm.