Many seniors think we should stick to mostly low-impact activities such as walking or swimming but that's not the case.
Many seniors think we should stick to mostly low-impact activities such as walking or swimming but that's not the case. yacobchuk

No place for ageism in exercise

EVEN though it is sometimes difficult to stick to a regular exercise regime, we all know the importance of exercise.

Many seniors think we should stick to mostly low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. Not so according to a recent Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) hosted a debate entitled "Does ageism influence how we prescribe exercise to older adults?"

Physiotherapist Meg Lowry, chair of the Queensland Gerontology committee for the APA highlighted the prevalence of ageism in our community.

"It is important we recognise we all have the potential to make inaccurate assumptions about what is and is not appropriate for a person's age," she said. "But there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that heavy strength training, challenging balance exercises and high intensity interval training are in fact advantageous for many older adults"

Ms Lowry believes in some cases, 80 year olds can be capable of more than the average 40 year old, including participating in heavy gym-based exercise and it is the role of the physiotherapist to treat every person as an individual, based on their needs rather than age.

"To suggest that a leg press or a loaded squat is unsuitable for a person over 50 actually steers them away from the very exercises that are scientifically proven to benefit their mood, metabolism, brain health, bone density, and many other health factors," she said.

"Recent research has demonstrated that leg press exercises can reduce the risk of falls, and sparked a call for greater investment in physiotherapy and quality resistance training machines within residential aged care.

"Not everybody who walks in off the street is ready for squats with a heavy barbell on their shoulders. We don't need to start with those exercises on day one, but they should never be taken off the menu based on somebody's age."

Dr Christian Barton, a post-doctoral researcher at La Trobe University, leads a research program to provide physiotherapy-led exercise, including strength training, for Australians with osteoarthritis.

Exercise is the most evidence-based treatment for people with osteoarthritis, and in many cases can allow them to avoid surgery and reduce the need for pain killers. But, it must be progressed to ensure people get stronger.


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