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Timing and coordination the keys to quick-walking oldies

Walking difficulty is often a common condition amongst older adults but results from a new US study show that an increased focus on timing and coordination during exercise could be the key to keeping older adults moving briskly.

Seated exercise compared to standing exercise in recent research study (Source: Shutterstock)
Seated exercise compared to standing exercise in recent research study (Source: Shutterstock)

The study was conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and saw almost 300 over 65’s participate in two groups – one using a seated exercise program of 50 minutes sitting, while the second group focused on standing exercise with 40 minutes standing and 10 minutes sitting.

Running for 12 weeks with 50-minute sessions twice a week, the researchers found that at the end, the second group who participated in the standing exercise were able to walk five times faster than the first group.

Chief Executive Officer of South Australian aged care provider Southern Cross Care SA & NT, David Moran, says he knows all too well the positive impact that exercise can have on elderly residents, following the opening of their Health and Wellness centres at their residential care sites in 2015.

“Mobility is important for residents for many reasons – that’s why our centres offer a wide range of services,” Mr Moran says.

“Residents use a wide range of our Health and Wellness centres resources that focus on timing and coordination such as recumbent bikes and chi balls that help keep them mobile.

“Overall we are seeing mobility improvements in residents including increased physical fitness, strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.”

The Pittsburgh researchers also suggest in the study that walking issues could contribute to loss of independence, higher rates of morbidity, and increased mortality, and that exercise is beneficial to physical and mental health and may prevent walking difficulty – observations that have also been noted in recent data collection undertaken by Southern Cross Care.

“The results couldn’t have been better!” Mr Moran says. “Across all residential care sites, overall engagement increased from an average 22 activities per resident in December 2016 to an average of 33 in March 2017.

“Since installing new Health and Wellness centres, we have found 63 percent of the residents who use them feel more energetic and fitter, 82 percent feel stronger, 93 percent feel their quality of life has improved and there has been a 54 percent reduction in falls.”

As well as showing physical improvements, Mr Moran says that residents who are using the Health and Wellness centres are also showing high levels of independence and control, setting themselves personal and meaningful goals, and also gaining a sense of achievement from their efforts.

Among those residents benefiting from the fitness regime is Doug Cockshell who has been working under the assistance and guidance of trained fitness professionals with the recumbent bike, nu-step, weights machine, hand weights and thera-band.

“Doug, who attends the Health and Wellness centre at our pine Lodges facility four times a week is a fantastic example of the benefits to exercise for mobility,” Mr Moran says.

“Having suffered from poor posture and always relying on having a wheelchair outside of his room, he no longer requires the wheelchair and is now walking taller, stronger and with more confidence since attending the centre regularly.

“As a former local football player, Doug has been involved with gyms and various modalities of fitness and sports all his life so he really is back in his element.”

Authors of the research paper from the University of Pittsburgh have stated that “our findings support the idea that timing and coordination exercise should be included in group exercise programs to improve mobility in older adults” but also recommend that more research is needed before recommending their program for implementation.

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