Review article| Volume 93, P78-82, November 2016

Exercise prescription for the older population: The interactions between physical activity, sedentary time, and adequate nutrition in maintaining musculoskeletal health


      • The minimum amount of physical activity needed to promote musculoskeletal function for older adults is poorly defined.
      • Combining physical activity and adequate nutrition is critical for maintaining skeletal muscle mass and metabolic health.
      • The feasibility of reducing sedentary time to maintain musculoskeletal health in older individuals needs to be explored.
      • Physical activity guidelines should highlight the importance of nutrition combined with resistance-type exercise.


      Regular physical activity (PA) promotes musculoskeletal health in older adults. However, the majority of older individuals do not meet current PA guidelines and are also highly sedentary. Emerging evidence indicates that large amounts of sedentary time accelerate the loss of skeletal muscle mass (i.e., sarcopenia) and physical function with advancing age. However, current PA recommendations for sedentary time are non-specific (i.e., keep sedentary time to a minimum). Research indicates that physical inactivity and large amounts of sedentary time accelerate sarcopenic muscle loss by inducing skeletal muscle ‘anabolic resistance’. These findings suggest a critical interaction between engaging in ‘sufficient’ levels of PA, minimising sedentary time, and consuming ‘adequate’ nutrition to promote optimal musculoskeletal health in older adults. However, current PA recommendations do not take into account the important role that nutrition plays in ensuring older adults can maximise the benefits from the PA in which they engage. The aim of this narrative review is: (1) to briefly summarise the evidence used to inform current public health recommendations for PA and sedentary time in older adults; and (2) to discuss the presence of ‘anabolic resistance’ in older adults, highlighting the importance of regular PA and minimising sedentary behaviour. It is imperative that the synergy between PA, minimising sedentary behaviour and adequate nutrition is integrated into future PA guidelines to promote optimal musculoskeletal health and metabolic responses in the growing ageing population.


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