Published on 10 December 2013
A type of gym class called BodyPump has helped seniors drop body fat and lift body strength, according to the preliminary findings of research by a University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student.
Vaughan Nicholson, a 32-year-old physiotherapist of Ferny Hills in Brisbane, has spent this year testing dozens of Sunshine Coast people aged between 55 and 75 and analysing the data.
His PhD in Sport and Exercise Science sought to measure the effects on healthy seniors of the group exercise class, which involves lifting weights to music.
Participants were measured at USC’s laboratories for strength, balance, bone density and body composition before undertaking a six-month program of BodyPump at Maroochydore’s Suncoast Fitness.
Suncoast Fitness owner Mark Stitt provided free use of the centre for the USC research because he believed group classes had benefits for all age groups, not just younger people, and he supported research for the fitness industry.
Vaughan said he compared the BodyPump group with a control group, who continued with their normal activity levels.
“I found the BodyPump participants had increased upper and lower body strength, reduced body fat and improved lumbar spine bone density,” he said.
“There was no change in hip bone density, balance or muscle mass in either group.
“The findings demonstrate that BodyPump may be an appropriate exercise option for healthy adults aged 55 to 75, particularly those who enjoy exercising in a group environment.”
Vaughan said most participants had shown no interest in gym-based exercise before the study but some had since joined the gym to continue classes.
“Further research directly comparing BodyPump to other exercise options is required to better gauge its relative effectiveness,” he said.
International researchers have been following USC’s project and Dr Jinger Gottschall, of Penn State University in the United States, and Bryce Hastings, Head of Research for New Zealand-based Les Mills International which runs the BodyPump program, intend to conduct further studies as part of a growing group exercise research program at USC with Dr Mark McKean, Vaughan and other HDR students.
— Julie Schomberg