Older Australians aren’t getting the exercise they need to stay healthy

| November 3, 2018

A national survey by Australia’s national science agency has today revealed how the health of older Australians could suffer if they don’t flex their muscles at least twice a week.

The survey of more than 5,600 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet subscribers found 65 per cent of people aged 51-70 years, and 86 per cent of people over 71, did not think resistance exercise was important for weight loss and overall health. Only one in two adults added resistance exercise to their weekly program.

“While resistance exercise is beneficial at any age, it becomes even more important as we get older and experience muscle loss associated with ageing,” CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Professor Grant Brinkworth said.

“If you’re in your 30s or 40s and not doing resistance exercise, establishing the habit now can provide many lifelong health benefits.

“Resistance exercise can help prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, type II diabetes, and heart disease – and with millions of Australians living with two or more chronic diseases, it’s critical that people exercise as they age to sustain their health and quality of life.”

The survey also found that, overall, two-thirds of people were not aware of the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommends adults be active on most – preferably all – days.

Professor Brinkworth said only seven per cent of respondents knew the guidelines recommended at least two muscle-strengthening resistance exercise sessions a week, and 77 per cent thought brisk walking was the best way to lose weight.

“Resistance training involves working your muscles against some form of weight or force, such as your own body weight,” he said.

“It increases muscle strength and plays a key role in body composition changes important for weight management, particularly for women who lose proportionately more lean muscle tissue than men when losing weight. This can slow down the metabolism, which works against weight loss efforts.

“Regular resistance training, with a higher protein diet is a powerful combination and can result in greater weight loss, fat loss and reduction in waist circumference, compared to a higher carbohydrate diet with exercise, or just diet alone.”

The survey found people avoided resistance exercise for a variety of reasons, including an aversion to going to the gym, lack of time from family commitments, and fear of injury.

“It is not necessary to go a gym for a good resistance workout – you can easily do this in the comfort of your own home, even by just using your own bodyweight for resistance, and while keeping one eye on the kids,” Professor Brinkworth said.

To support people in incorporating resistance training into their lives, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Online program has introduced a new companion exercise plan, providing at-home resistance workouts.

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