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Future focus at NSW Symposium

Emma Breheny
2 April 2016

Maria Fiatarone Singh and her team are currently conducting research into whether exercise interventions are beneficial to cognitive, functional or psychological outcomes in two groups: those with a mild cognitive impairment, which can increase the risk of developing dementia, and those with established dementia. Specifically, those with established Lewis body dementia, which is similar to Parkinson’s disease, will be the focus.

Two studies will also look at the role of technology in delivering physical activity interventions using mobile apps and FaceTime video conferencing.

‘For prevention of dementia, it’s a reasonable approach because you’re basically addressing a lot of the risk factors that happen. Risk factors have previously been addressed in remotely-delivered interventions for managing obesity and hypertension and so on.

‘However, it’s not so clear whether this works with people who have already developed a mild cognitive impairment or dementia. We don’t yet know if they would be able to adopt an intervention without any face-to-face contact, or, in fact, if it would be safe,’ she says.

As digital technologies gradually spread and tech-savvy generations grow older, the implications for healthcare delivery across Australia are significant.

For now, Maria advocates a combination of face-to-face and remote interventions with technology playing the all-important role of ensuring adherence to exercise prescription and facilitating long-term behavioural change.

‘These days it isn’t that hard to see somebody in their home via FaceTime, for example, and watch them do something and give them feedback on their form,’ she says.

Maria’s belief in the preventive benefits of exercise is evident in the way she talks about the right types of exercise to prescribe and the dangers of disuse of our bodies.

‘A lot of the problems that are related to ageing are actually related to disuse, rather than ageing itself, whether it’s cognitive, musculoskeletal or cardiovascular disuse.’

She warns those prescribing exercise to maintain intensity and progressions regardless of age, pointing to the evidence base for high-intensity exercise.

‘In the realm of strength training, I still see an awful lot of low-intensity, non-progressive exercises prescribed that are called strength training but clearly aren’t. Challenging a muscle with uncustomary force is still the key to adaptation. The older you are, the more necessary it is to stick to that principle.’

The APA NSW Symposium is on Saturday 25 June at Rosehill Gardens, Sydney. For the latest information on this event, check regularly.


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