Only this week did a 72 year old patient with very few outstanding health issues ask me if she is too old to begin exercise. I calmly explained to her about movement, the plasticity of the neuromuscular system, bone density and brain function and how all are improved with exercise at any age. She was on the fence so I excused myself for a moment and ran a quick pubmed search.
I came across Krist, et al, 2013. 15 elderly residents of a home for the elderly (mean age 84) entered an 8 week exercise program. The program was progressive resistance training twice a week. Outcome measures included elderly mobility scale, muscle strength by eight repetition maximum on leg press and push ups, and the short-form 36 health survey.
10 of the original 15 completed the program. For those 10, mean mobility improved from 14.1/20 to 17.5/20. Push up endurance improved 62% and leg press strength 108%! Interestingly, despite these vast improvements in strength and mobility, the healthy questionnaire indicated little improvement in quality of life.
So I explained to her that even people in their 90s have enough capacity in their bodies to change. It takes longer than when we were 20, sure but it’s always there.