For the first time in human history, the population over 65 years of age exceeds the number of children under 5 years of age and this trend is accelerating. 11% of the world population is over 60 years of age and by 2050, the 60+ demographic is projected to comprise more than 22% of the world population. We are living longer. As we live longer, increasing our “health span” (not just our lifespan) becomes an imperative research pursuit.
Age related lack of physical activity results in a condition known as frailty, a syndrome that appears when any three or more of the following exists: weight loss, weakness, slowness, exhaustion, and low levels of physical activity. In people over 65, frailty increases risk of falling (the second leading cause of death and injury in the world) and is a serious public health concern for the elderly. Falling or fear of falling results in a reduction in physical activity thus creating a paradox in which the fear of falling can increase risk of future falls due to the deterioration of physical abilities from not participating in everyday life. In addition to preventing falls, maintaining walking speed is also a priority as we age. Declining walking speed is a predictor of future dependence, hospitalization, medical care, cognitive decline, and mortality.
With this in mind, authors of a new systematic review (a review of all of the available, relevant research on a particular topic) published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health studied the impact of resistance training on both gait and balance in older adults.
The researchers concluded, “Resistance training has a positive effect on both gait and balance in an elderly population. Strength training improves balance in aging populations. Improvements in strength allow for greater autonomy and independence to carry out activities of daily living as we age.”
Interestingly (although not surprisingly), the authors noted, “It is noteworthy to report that a recent systematic review looking at the effects of supervised vs. unsupervised training programs on balance and muscle strength in older adults suggests that supervised training improved measures of balance and muscle strength/power to a greater extent than that of unsupervised programs.”