View Full Version : What sort of workplace fitness programs work best for olderworkers?

05-29-2008, 12:16 PM
Dear all,

Workplace exercise programs designed to improve the physical fitness of
sedentary workers do not appear to reduce the body mass of workers who
are overweight or obese.This appears to be true even for intensive
programs that that rely on traditional aerobic training for about 20 min
duration for 3 days of the week (and/or a similar amount of
weight-training exercises)

Research into the value of exercises for elderly people suggests that
resistance training might be a better option than more traditional forms
of aerobic training. This is because resistance training can counteract
the effects of sarcopenia (the loss of skeletal muscle mass with
advancing age which tends to cause physical weakness and reduced
activity levels into the older sections of the population). Research
into the benefits of endurance training has shown that enormous
improvements in fitness are possible; for 10 "elderly subjects" (65.1
+/- 2.9 yr) endurance training at 70% of peak oxygen consumption for 12
weeks produced a 128% increase in muscle oxidative capacity (Meredith et
al, 1989). Progressive resistance exercises can increase strength reduce
body fat and decrease blood pressure (Evans, 1996).

Frail elders respond robustly to resistance training with
musculoskeletal remodelling, and significant increases in muscle area
are possible with resistance training in combination with adequate
energy intakes (Singh et al, 1999). This is thought to be due to
myogenic regulatory factors (MRFs) enabling the adaptive responses of
skeletal muscle to mechanical load (Bamman et al, 2004). More recently
the spotlight has fallen on the role of nutrition and hormone
replacement in reversing sarcopenia have received attention (Yarasheski,
2003). Naturally this is not a magic cure for everyone; the factors that
contribute to its development include the neuropathic, metabolic,
hormonal, nutritional and immunological status of those affected (Narici
et al, 2004).

A recent Australian workplace health program for improving the physical
fitness of sedentary workers that included both supervised exercise
(aerobic and weight-training) and dietary/health education (delivered
via group seminars) resulted in improved aerobic fitness but it caused
no significant effects on body mass or body mass index of the workers
(Atlantis et al, 2006). On this basis it sounds as if we are going to
promote workplace exercise programs for older workers at all we should
promote progressive resistance exercises rather traditional aerobic
exercises (in conjunction with improved nutrition and hormone
replacement treatments where these might be needed).

Is anyone running a program of this nature at the moment? Any comments
on the feasibility and acceptability of running such programs would be
greatly appreciated!


David McFarlane MAppSc (Ergonomics)
Ergonomist, WorkCover NSW


1. C Meredith, W Frontera, E Fisher, V Hughes, J Herland, J Edwards and
W Evans, (1989), "Peripheral effects of endurance training in young and
old subjects", Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 66, Issue 6, pp

2. W Evans, (1996), "Reversing sarcopenia: how weight training can build
strength and vitality", Geriatrics, May 1996; 51(5): 46-7, 51-3.

3. M Singh, W Ding, T Manfredi, G Solares, E O'Neill, K Clements, N
Ryan, J Kehayias, R Fielding and W Evans, (1999), " Insulin-like growth
factor I in skeletal muscle after weight-lifting exercise in frail
elders", Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 277, 1, July (1 Pt 1): E135-43.

4. M Bamman, R Ragan, J Kim, J Cross, V Hill, S Tuggle and R Allman,
(2004), " Myogenic protein expression before and after resistance
loading in 26- and 64-yr-old men and women", J Appl Physiol 97:

5. K Yarasheski, (2003), " Exercise, aging, and muscle protein
metabolism", J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2003 Oct; 58 (10): M918-22.

6. M Narici, N Reeves, C Morse and C Maganaris, (2004), "Muscular
adaptations to resistance exercise in the elderly", Journal of
Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interaction, 4 (2), 161-164.

7. Atlantis E, Chow C, Kirby A, Fiatarone Singh M, (2006), " Worksite
intervention effects on physical health: a randomized controlled trial",
Health Promot Int, 2006 Sep, 21, (3), pp 191-200. See


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