Anna Giulia Cattaneo - Department of Biotechnologies and Life
§Sciences (DBSV), University of Insubria, via J-H. Dunant,
3, Varese, Italy.
The quality of life in healthy elderly is related to a number
of factors, both physical and psychological, and it is a common
opinion that the exercise and social activities can greatly
In addition to a healthy lifestyle, with adequate amount
of physical activity and social contact, scheduled physical
exercise is useful to improve and maintain the wellness in
people aged over 65. The main papers on the argument, appeared
in the last two years, state its importance and add some news
to the modalities in training procedures.
Before programming a schedule of physical training, the physician
should generally assess its older patient. Age, sex, overweight,
physical fitness and previous amount of exercise, diseases
and medications have predictive value for mobility disability
in the older patients.
Short assessment test should be helpful, if well standardised:
they could be predictive of performance under exercise both
in healthy subjects and in those affected by chronic diseases.
As an example, we can recall the 6-min walk distance, whose
predictivity was recently reviewed by the ALAT group, for
seven participating countries Eur. Respir. J., 2011, 37:150-156).
Another test similar to the cited is illustrated in Respiration
2011, 81:223-228): a predictive equation for the walking performance
at the incremental shuttle walk distance is given, which gives
an evaluation of walking disabilities possibly caused by chronic
Stretching and passive or active mobilisation are common
practice in physical therapy for disabled subjects and those
suffering of postsurgical or posttraumatic lesions. Resistance
training enhances strength and coordination of arms and legs
in subjects suffering from postural tremor, reducing the principal
symptom too. In seniors other ways healthy, the gait pattern
ameliorates after balance training on an instrumented walkway.
Appropriate training is a recognized part of the treatment
in medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, alone
or as a part of the metabolic syndrome. In the elderly, however,
to the risk of fall, enhanced by the pharmacological treatment,
could be threatening at the beginning. Only after an appropriate
period of adherence to the scheduled exercise, the balance
and the self-confidence will improve, at the same time the
need for medication should reduce.
Even those psychologically or cognitively affected can find
help in programmed and regular activity, as demonstrated in
depression and cognitive impairment. The benefits of physical
exercise are significant and long-standing, even better if
conducted in a group therapy and accompanied by mental training
and psychological counselling. The active participation to
group exercise and especially the adherence to the programmed
schedule are very important.
Among non conventional types of exercise, yoga and Tai Chi
seem to effectively counteract signs of depression and improve
In summary, we can conclude that aged healthy persons should
be encouraged to conduct an active lifestyle, with physical
exercise as a normal and necessary component of it. On the
other hand, scheduled exercise should be recommended as an
active treatment of associated conditions, and therefore personalized
and carefully graded.
Anna Giulia Cattaneo - Department of
Biotechnologies and Life §Sciences (DBSV), University
of Insubria, via J-H. Dunant, 3, Varese, Italy.
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