Usyd scientist leads the way on new findings on exercise and ageing

20 August 2009

A decade on from the first publication of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Position Stand on Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults, Sydney University's Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh has forwarded the recently updated Position Stand which presents new findings on the benefits of exercise for older adults.

Physical activity - even at a moderate level of intensity - can greatly improve quality and life and longevity for adults over age 65, according to the updated Position Stand. In particular new findings suggest that exercise can increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions.

'The important thing for the public to take away from these findings is that you are never too old to start or continue exercising,' says Professor Fiatarone Singh. 'It doesn't always need to be high-intensity training, but you do need to be exercising consistently to reap these benefits. Both aerobic exercise and resistance training, or weight-lifting exercise have positive health benefits, and knowing which type of exercise to prescribe for the prevention and treatment of specific conditions is key.'

Professor Fiatarone Singh
Professor Fiatarone Singh

The Position Stand also provides evidence to support the claim that exercise provides psychological benefits for older adults, including lowered risk of dementia.

The effects of exercise on psychological and cognitive behaviour is something which Prof Fiatarone Singh's research team at University's Faculty of Health Sciences is currently investigating under a NHMRC grant in collaboration with UNSW.

'The aim of our world-first three-year trial is to ascertain whether structured regimes of physical and mental exercise can delay or even prevent the onset of dementia,' comments Fiatarone Singh. 'Previous studies have looked at the benefits of physical activity; however this is the first study to study the effects of both physical and mental exercises to those with mild cognitive impairment.'

Prof Fiatarone Singh is currently conducting a number of other studies funded by the NHMRC and other organisations investigating the utility of exercise in osteoarthritis, hip fracture, type 2 diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, insomnia, depression, chronic renal failure, recurrent falls, and cancer, among others. A proposed NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence at the University of Sydney in Lifestyle Medicine is currently in preparation under the direction of Prof Singh.

The Position Stands are official statements of the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organisation in the world. They are the global gold standard for treatment, utilised by professional organisations and governmental agencies. Resources and further information for practitioners are available through the College's Exercise is Medicine website.

The Position Stand on Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults is an update of a previously produced manuscript of the same title, on which Prof Fiatarone Singh was also an author, originally released in 1998.