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Exercise has physical, mental benefits—even in those over 90

October 4, 2013 by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor

The weight room isn’t just for younger or rehabilitating residents. New research shows that those over the age of 90 can benefit from strength training, too.

Dr. Mikel Izquierdo-Redín of the Public University of Navarre in Spain and colleagues found that increased strength, power and muscle mass after 12 weeks of exercise translated to increased walking speed, improved ability to rise out of a chair, better balance, fewer falls and a noticeable difference in power and mass in lower limb muscles of elderly study participants. Their findings are published in the American Aging Association’s journal, Age.

The study involved 24 participants aged 91 to 96 years; 11 were in an experimental group and 13 in a control group. Exercisers performed strength training and balance-improvement workouts for two days a week for 12 weeks.

“From a practical point of view,” Izquierdo says, “the results of the study point to the importance of implementing exercise programs in patients of this type—exercises to develop muscle power, balance and walking.” Such training could help lessen the effects of aging and improve overall well-being, he adds.

Other research published in the same journal issue found that when elderly study participants performed aerobic, strength and stretching exercises three times a week for four weeks, their executive functions, episodic memory and processing speed improved. That study, conducted in Japan, included 64 healthy older adults randomly assigned to an exercise group or a control group.