Background: Older persons are the fastest growing segment of the
population living in the Western hemisphere. Longevity comes at a price, including
a higher rate of morbidity, functional and mental disability and the eventual
loss of independence. Physical inactivity further aggravates the decline in physiological
function along the aging process. Therefore, the promotion of regular exercise
may be seen as one of the main non-pharmacological approaches that
should be recommended to older adults.
Methods: We performed a comprehensive review on the interaction between exercise
training and improved physical fitness in the elderly. Specifically, 175 papers
describing the overall benefits of exercise training on the cardiovascular,
neuromuscular and brain function of older adults were included. The effectiveness
of training for improving quality of life at an older age was also reviewed.
Results: Exercise training can partially reverse the age-related physiological decline and enhance
work capacity in the elderly. Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a minimum quantity
and quality of physical exercise decreases the risk of cardiovascular mortality, sarcopenia, prevents
the onset of osteopenia and even exerts a prophylactic role against neurodegeneration. The systemic
physiologic effects are profound and may be directly linked to a favorable feedforward cycle
whereby improved physiologic function begets improved physical function and so on.
Conclusion: We conclude that structured training programs should be designed to improve the
physiological function in this population. Finally, the benefits of exercise training vary as a function
of training volume and this relationship is independent of age and sex.