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What sort of workplace fitness programs work best for olderworkers?

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  • What sort of workplace fitness programs work best for olderworkers?

    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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