Impact Level

Thursday, March 18th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Conventional wisdom long held that low impact training helps spare the joints of mid-life and older adult exercisers. In recent times, however, impact forces have been advised for good bone health in some sectors of the literature. On the pro-impact side, there are inconsistencies among the recommendations of influential guideline-setting agencies, ranging from: (1) moderate to high intensity, incorporating jumping; to (2) medium impact, such as intermittent jogging or step aerobics; to (3) high impact for osteoporosis prevention, but low impact for its management.

Now comes a study that brings the question full circle. Recently presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, the investigation involved 100 male and 136 female subjects, ages 45 to 55, of normal weight and without symptoms of osteoarthritis. Researchers examined MRI scans of their knees and evaluated the results in relation to their physical activity patterns. The scientists concluded that high impact weight-bearing activities, like running and jumping, are risky for the health of knee cartilage in aging persons, whereas low impact activities, like cycling and swimming, may protect healthy knee cartilage from becoming diseased.

Is there a conflict between osteoporosis prevention and osteoarthritis prevention? While the jury is still out on the ideal level and frequency of impact in mature adult exercise training, prudence calls for caution, moderation and highly individualized programming, including activity-specific medical clearance to participate. Look for much more research and clarification to emerge in this important topic area in the future.


Comments are closed.