Improving inefficient gait patterns is often a focus among fitness professionals working with older adults. Walking problems can diminish independence and increase injury potential. A recent study suggests that regular stretching of the hip flexor muscles can improve gait patterns among this population. The purpose of a study published in PM&R (2011; 3 , 324–29) was to determine the effectiveness of a 10-week hip flexor stretching program on walking patterns among 82 older adults.
People are considered to be in their “prime” during their 20s, and they often accept that their physical fitness and health are meant to decline as they age. Contrary to this belief, a recent report says that many people aged 50 and older feel healthier than ever. The research found that 17% of the 1,500 respondents “over 50” believe they are more fit now than they were in their 20s. More than half believe they look younger than their age. This group also says that they eat more fruit and vegetables than they did in their earlier years.
Individuals with metabolic syndrome may now have another concern: memory loss. Older adults who present with symptoms of metabolic syndrome—high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, low high-density lipoprotein levels and more—appear to be at greater risk for diminished cognition. A recent study, published in Neurology (2011; 76 , 518–25), included 7,087 men and women aged 65 and older from three French cities.
Older adults who participated in a moderate exercise program for 1 year improved cognitive functioning, according to a study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (2010; 2 [Article 32], 1–17; doi:10.3389/fnagi.2010.00032). To compare the cognitive effects of aerobic training with those of stretching, toning and balance (STB) training among older adults, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recruited 65 subjects ranging in age from 59 to 80 years. Subjects reported having engaged in very little physical activity in the previous 6 months.
For older people with depressive symptoms, home-based physical activity can improve mood and quality of life as effectively as social visits, according to a study published in the Annals of Family Medicine (2010; 8 , 214–23). Many older adults suffer from low mood and poor physical function. The purpose of this study was to assess whether a home-based physical activity program could help older adults with depressive symptoms to improve function, quality of life and mood.
Older adults who wish to remain physically independent should improve leg strength, advised researchers from Wake Forest University and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The recommendation was based on two studies performed by the same group. The first study evaluated physical function in 230 retirement community–dwelling adults. Many of these residents were found to have lower-limb strength deficits, and the researchers were concerned that these deficits might negatively affect mobility.
Incorporating balance techniques into older-adult training programs is often a go-to method for reducing falls. Recent research suggests that a focus on improving blood pressure may also be necessary to keep older adults safe. The study was published in the May 18 issue of Neurology (2010; 74, 1627–33).