Abstract

How to stay strong, when you get older?

Two research projects aim at producing new  knowledge on the significance of exercise and diet for elderly people.

The CALM project:

In the coming decades, the number of elderly citizens over age 60 in Denmark will increase by more than 50%. As a consequence, public expenditures for health care and welfare services will rapidly increase unless new evidence-based measures are developed to counteract age-related challenges. One of the most significant challenges is the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass (1-2% per year), which starts around age 50 in healthy individuals. The resulting loss of strength and functional ability often leads to a decrease in an individual’s quality of life and independence, which has significant personal and societal consequences.

Recent research has shown that a supplement with protein and increased levels of exercise may prevent or slow this age-related loss of muscle mass. But little is known about the optimal combination of protein intake and exercise, nor about the complications that may result from turning these promising ideas into permanent lifestyle changes in a large segment of the population.

The CALM project (Counteracting Age-Related Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass) aims to make a significant contribution to current knowledge in the field. In line with the complexity of the problem, CALM is interdisciplinary and will generate and combine new knowledge about physiological mechanisms, entrenched lifestyle habits/routines and the existing knowledge that is embedded in a variety of institutions concerned with the elderly population. The key purpose of the project is to generate interdisciplinary knowledge in order to find the optimal combination of protein intake and exercise that elderly people will make part of their daily lives.

The goals are achieved by way of two intervention clusters. In the first, a clinical study is conducted to collect substantial new knowledge about the influence of exercise and protein on age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, gut microbiota composition and metabolome. As a part of this first cluster, we will investigate the individual and social barriers that may hinder the research subjects’ ability to make lifestyle changes. In the second cluster, we will analyse paradigms and identify stakeholders who play an important part in the broader processes that shape eating and exercise habits among the elderly population. Drawing upon this analysis and insights from the first cluster, we will organise an innovation project. The innovation project will include public engagement events and food workshops, and it will aim to develop prototypes for new foods, physical-training modalities and other health-promotion strategies related to the theme of the project.

 

The LISA project:

Ageing is associated with a gradual loss in skeletal muscle and function, mainly due to reduced physical activity level of the individual. Short term training programs are known to have only short-lasting effect upon the body, and we will in the present study investigate whether long-tern intervention with muscle strength training will provide lasting changes in muscle strength and daily functional capacity in elderly individuals – both healthy ones and in patients with chronic disease.

It is hypothesized that elderly between 62 and 70 years who are in their transition phase going from labor to retirement will make lasting changes in their activity pattern after being subjected to strength training over 1 year. Further, this will result in improved health parameters, cognitive function and physically bodily function over the next 10-15 years.

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