Exercise and Age

The elderly population are more likely to experience a decrease in skeletal muscle mass as a result of disease, under-nutrition, and the effects of aging per se. Muscle weakness that accompanies the aging process has been related to an increased falls risk and in turn more potentials for fractures in these older individuals. One of the best ways to keep muscles healthy and strong is through exercises. Different types of exercises target the muscles and the body in different ways.


Also known as resistance or weight training is training in which resistance against which a muscle generates force is progressively increased over time. Studies demonstrate that frail elderly men and women, well into their tenth decade of life, retain the capacity to adapt to resistance exercise training with significant increases in muscle size and strength. It is the intensity of the stimulus and not the underlying fitness or frailty of the individual that determines the magnitude of the gains in strength and muscle size.

  • Benefits of strength training include increases in muscle size and strength, which were associated with clinically significant improvements in:
  • Gait speed
  • Balance,
  • Functional independence
  • Protection from injury in the elderly


The exercise is relatively comfortable and can be sustained for 20 minutes to many hours. Aerobic exercise has long been an important recommendation for those with many of the chronic diseases typically associated with old age. These include non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The incorporation of aerobic and resistance exercise training into the life-style of older individuals can have a considerable impact on the functional capacity, physiological reserve, and independence.


Stretching is indicated to promote adaptation of shortened muscles to a more lengthened position to achieve better posture and movement patterns. Muscles held in shortened positions appear to have biased muscle fibers that may result in muscle imbalance during movement and painful movement patterns. 

  1. Research has shown that with increasing age and a loss of extensibility, effective stretching exercises require longer holding times. Although a 30-second hold is sufficient to achieve a long-term effect of muscle lengthening in a younger adult, 60 seconds is necessary for adults age 65 years and older.
  2. Four repetitions of a 60-second hold performed regularly, 5 to 7 days a week, appear to be most effective.
  3. Some have suggested the use of ballistic or dynamic stretching to increase immediate muscle performance. 
  4. Slow static stretching is likewise recommended for stretching the collagen tissue that is the substance of these structures.



Aquatic exercise is a great way for individuals, who cannot tolerate the stress of land-based exercises, to improve their movement. Not only does the water provide the necessary resistance but it immediately reduces the body weight by 50% to allow a much easier way to work our muscles and joints. This low impact environment is a benefit to seniors with arthritis and joint pain.

If you’re looking for assistance with safe exerise for your age and a programme to complete with a physio or at home in  Brisbane, Fortitude Valley, New Farm and surrounding suburbs the team Physio on Brunswick can help. Call us on 3252 5277 to arrange your appointment or pop in to meet our friendly reception team for assistance. 

Back to articles