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Anatomy Physiology

Anatomy Physiology

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Published by: ozeneu18 on Sep 10, 2010
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Since the fitness revolution began in the 1970s, more and more people are enjoying the
benefits of regular exercise. However, this revolution was primarily aimed at the young and fit
and for the most part excluded one segment of society, the older adult. Only over the last few
years has the number of older adults who regularly exercise dramatically increased.

Ageing is associated with a gradual deterioration in both physiological and psychological
functioning, which may or may not lead to a loss of independence.

Advancing age is generally associated with the development of several major chronic
diseases (see table below), a lack of mobility and loss of independence. The ageing
process depends on many factors such as:

• genetics
• behavioural – smoking, drinking or late nights for example
• nutritional (a good nutritional intake can decrease the effects of free radicals, for
example that speed the ageing process)
• environmental factors – modern day living, pollution, reduced quality of food,
exposure to chemicals in the form of beauty products etc

However, many of the physical, psychological and social hazards linked to ageing can be
slowed down, avoided or even reversed by remaining physically active.

Chronic Diseases Associated with the Ageing

Cardiovascular

Musculoskeletal

Respiratory

• coronary heart disease
• hypertension

• osteoarthritis
• rheumatoid arthritis
• osteoporosis

• asthma
• chronic

obstructive

pulmonary

disorder

(COPD)

Metabolic

Neurological

Sensory

• diabetes
• obesity

• Parkinson’s Disease
• Alzheimer’s Disease

• visual disorders
• auditory disorders

Adapted from ACE (1998)

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It is because of these reasons that extra screening may be necessary before providing an
exercise programme for an older adult.

Several key issues need to be considered when working with an older client. These include,
knowledge of the effects of ageing, age related diseases, the physical and mental limitations to
exercise participation and the many societal barriers (i.e. fear of going out) older adults’ face to
physical activity participation.

Age Related Changes in Anatomy and Physiology

Skeletal:

• from 35 to 40 years of age there is a gradual loss of bone
• women experience a greater loss of bone, especially immediately post-menopause due
to oestrogen production cessation (increasing the risk of fracture)
• a reduction in joint range of movement (ROM), a thickening of ligaments, a loss of
elasticity to connective tissue and muscle, and wear and tear to cartilage found on bone
ends, thus leading to degenerative changes to joint structures

Neuromuscular:

• peak strength occurs in the 30s and stays relatively constant until the 50s. By the
seventh decade of life men and women can expect a 30% decline in available muscle
strength and a 40% reduction in muscle cross sectional area
• a large percentage of he elderly find difficulty in simply standing from a seated position,
making everyday movements difficult. This is due to loss of muscle strength and
power.

• ageing leads to a decrease in the number of functioning fast twitch muscle fibres and
an increase in functioning slow twitch muscle fibres.

Cardiorespiratory:

• cardiorespiratory function declines in response to ageing
• Arteries and arterioles begin to lose their elasticity, become thickened and calcify in a
process called arteriosclerosis. Hence, the older blood vessel is less capable of
vasodilation. In response, blood pressure goes up.
• lung function also changes with advancing age.

Body composition:

• after the age of 35, men and women tend to progressively add weight until the fifth and
sixth decade.

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Posture and balance (postural control):

• a decline in posture control is synonymous with ageing, this is evidenced by the high
incidence of falls in the elderly.
• the ability to perform many functional tasks (i.e. reaching, walking, running and stair
climbing) is dependent on a good postural control

Care should be taken when selecting exercises for older adults taking into consideration the
above age related changes. Exercises should be modified for older participants to ensure they
do not lead to the risk of injury or falls. Fitness Instructors who are unsure how to modify
activities for older adults should refer the clients to an instructor who has received the specific
Level 3 training in how to adapt physical activity for the needs of older adults.

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