Get pushy: how strengthening exercise can work for everyone

By Arno Parviainen, Founder & CEO, David Health Solutions

It has long been accepted that regular exercise is important for our health. 

But a growing amount of new research into the health effects of exercise make a compelling case that exercise, especially strengthening exercise, should be a routine practice for everyone, young or old. 

Inactivity often accelerates the ageing process. Many of us have first-hand experience of the effects of ageing on physical and mental capacities. What’s less commonly known is that, in addition to the cardiovascular issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle, our passive habits and poor dietary choices pave the way for a host of other diseases. 

Fighting lifestyle induced diseases

In the battle against lifestyle-induced diseases, we’re familiar with the list of dos and donts for maintaining health:

  • eat nutritious foods
  • exercise regularly
  • prioritise sleep
  • manage stress
  • foster social connections

These guidelines are widely acknowledged but seldom come with immediate gratification, requiring sustained motivation before tangible benefits are felt. On the other hand, unhealthy habits often provide instant satisfaction, making them difficult to resist! 

Amid these challenges, one activity stands out for its effectiveness and substantial scientific backing: strengthening exercise.

The next blockbuster drug: Exerkines

Described as the potential next blockbuster drug, the health benefits derived from strengthening exercise is garnering increasing attention. 

As scientific knowledge expands, researchers continue to identify a growing number of molecules excreted by various body parts during strengthening exercise. 

Coined as Exerkines, this diverse array of molecules includes proteins, myokines, cytokines, neurotransmitters and hormones. Each plays a crucial role in bodily functions that are instrumental to overall health and well-being, such as repairing tissues, enhancing immunity, regulating cell growth and facilitating nerve generation.

For an ageing person, the most important health benefit is improved functional capacity. Muscle strength, endurance and coordination are all enhanced, improving quality of life and increasing the ability to participate in various activities. 

But perhaps the most amazing impact of strengthening exercise is on the brain. While we might think there is little connection between the brain and muscles, science speaks of muscle-brain crosstalk. 

Strengthening exercise has been found to improve the brain’s executive functions and even create more white matter. While both aerobic and strengthening exercise are valuable, strength work is superior in various health outcomes including all-cause mortality, diabetes, cancer and frailty. Its holistic benefits make it an essential component of any comprehensive exercise regimen.

Maximising training effectiveness

[getback™ technology partner] David Health Solutions has been working for decades to improve both exercise efficiency and the motivation of participants. We have identified three main factors that influence training effectiveness:

  1. The requirement for coordination
  2. The effect of the resistance curve in the exercise
  3. Motivation to train with higher intensity

While all exercises demand a certain level of coordination, some are inherently riskier and require greater care and lower loading to ensure safety. 

To encourage large populations to engage in high-intensity training, it is crucial to provide safe tools.

All exercises involve variable resistance in relation to joint angle, either intentionally or inadvertently. However, many people are unaware of the ideal loading curve for each exercise. 

In a properly designed exercise device, the loading curve aligns with the bio-mechanical strength curve of the joint. In most current environments, this alignment is rarely achieved. Most exercises and devices offer an incorrect loading curve, resulting in discomfort during the exercise and, more importantly, ineffective training outcomes. 

Figure 1 illustrates two exercises: one correctly matching the strength curve and one incorrectly designed, such as a pulley system where the heaviest load is at the point where muscles are weakest.

Fig 1: The difference between correct and incorrect loading curves

Correct loading significantly impacts training results by providing even loading throughout the movement and inducing a substantial fatiguing effect. 

Regardless of the training method, the most important aspect for effective exercise is consistency. A motivating environment, where technology offers continuous feedback on each exercise session and periodic testing shows progression, is crucial. 

Figure 2 shows a motivational screen displaying the appropriate range of motion, speed and repetition count (Compliance). This real-time feedback makes it challenging to stop exercising, even when muscles are fatigued. Compliance levels in centres using this system are over 90%, indicating that virtually everyone completes their planned exercises in a correct manner.

Exercise undeniably offers countless benefits for physical and mental health. But the question needs to be asked: will these benefits reach those who need them most? 

Many older people who are inactive and lack training experience may feel intimidated about joining a regular gym. This presents a challenge and an opportunity. Fitness centres, wellness centres and even medical facilities have the chance to design environments that provide a sense of safety, professional guidance and access to effective, user-friendly technology for older people to increase their strength.

Age should not be a limiting factor to people beginning their exercise journey. In the next five years, we anticipate substantial growth in facilities that better cater for older clients.

This blog was originally published in full at

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