Intended for healthcare professionals


Exercise in people over 85

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 05 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m402

Linked Opinion

Exercise is the miracle cure

  1. Mikel Izquierdo, professor12,
  2. John E Morley, professor3,
  3. Alejandro Lucia, professor24
  1. 1Navarrabiomed, Complejo Hospitalario de Navarra-Public University of Navarra, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain
  2. 2CIBER of Frailty and Healthy Ageing, Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO, USA
  4. 4Faculty of Sport Sciences, Universidad Europea de Madrid and Research Institute of the Hospital 12 de Octubre (i+12), Madrid, Spain
  1. Correspondence to: M Izquierdo mikel.izquierdo{at}

Advanced age is no barrier to the benefits of tailored exercise

Societies are progressively ageing, and people aged ≥85 years, who are projected to more than triple in number by 2050, represent the most rapidly expanding population group.1 How to preserve health and function at an advanced age is an increasingly important challenge for healthcare professionals and the public.

According to the World Health Organization, healthy ageing is largely determined by the ability to maintain both mental and physical capacity––together known as intrinsic capacity.2 No drugs exist to improve physical capacity in the oldest people, and none is likely to be developed in the foreseeable future. Evidence is growing, however, to support interventions based on physical exercise.

Thirty years ago, a classic study showed that high intensity resistance (strength) training, including loaded exercises such as leg presses, improved muscle mass and functional mobility among people with an average age of 90.3 More recently, a randomised controlled trial showed that an …

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