American magazine Reader’s Digest has come under fire for an “ageist” article it published, which suggested seniors are ailing creatures who aren’t fit enough for rigorous exercises anymore.
The publication was slammed for its article, titled 14 Exercises to Never Do After Age 50, which depicted Baby Boomers as frail seniors who aren’t “in the best shape of their lives” and encouraged them to ditch weight-baring exercises that have previously been proven to help people stay fit and strong in their later years.
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) was particularly outraged by the piece and demanded a retraction, saying it sends the wrong message to readers who may have actually been doing the right thing by keeping fit and healthy.
The APA argued there’s no place for ageism in exercise and said there’s nothing to say over-50s can’t lift weights and get into some serious sweat-inducing exercise, no matter their age.
“Not everybody who walks in off the street is ready for squats with a heavy barbell on their shoulders. We don’t need to start with those exercises day one, but they should never be taken off the menu based on somebody’s age,” APA physiotherapist Meg Lowry explained.
“To suggest that a leg press or a loaded squat is unsuitable for a person over 50 actually steers them away from the very exercises that are scientifically proven to benefit their mood, metabolism, brain health, bone density, and many other health factors.”
The article, which has since been tweaked to 14 Exercises You Should Modify If You’re Over 50 , suggests seniors shouldn’t even attempt a leg press or a loaded squat as it could put too much pressure on the knees, while push-ups are branded a no-go as they could affect shoulders and the upper back.
Of course some people are fitter than others and it’s probably not wise to jump right into a challenging fitness regime if it’s not your usual practice, but according to Lowry, these are the exact exercises that are proven to be of great benefit to over-50s.
“It is important that we recognise we all have the potential to make inaccurate assumptions about what is and is not appropriate for a person’s age,” Lowry said. “But there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that heavy strength training, challenging balance exercises and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are in fact advantageous for many older adults.
“In some cases, 80 year olds can be capable of more than the average 40-year-old, including heavy gym-based exercise. It’s our role as physiotherapists to treat every person as an individual, based on their needs rather than age.”