Effects of Group Exercise in Old Age Homes
UKZN’s College of Health Sciences Masters student, Ms Prathna Dudhrajh, has completed a study to determine whether immunity increased and stress decreased after a 12-week exercise programme for residents in old age homes.
The study is titled: “Effects of Group Exercise on Mucosal Immunity and Hypothalamic-pituitary Adrenal Axis Activation in Older Persons Living in Aged Care Facilities Within the eThekwini Municipality”.
‘Mucosal immunity refers to protection against pathogens in the mucous membranes for example the respiratory tract as well as the mouth. Here salivary secretory IgA is predominant and is usually the first line of defence especially against upper respiratory tract infections,’ explained Dudhrajh.
The survey was conducted on saliva samples from 95 individuals aged between 67 and 72 years and resident at five aged care facilities in the eThekwini region.
‘Overnight, fasted s-IgA secretion rate, cortisol and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) were measured pre and post a 12-week group exercise programme. Paired T-tests were performed and effect sizes calculated. There was a significant increase in cortisol in the group training three times a week (p=0.01) that exhibited a moderate effect size (Cohen’s d = 0.42). Increases in the s-IgA secretion rate approached significance in both groups with low to moderate effect sizes (twice a week p=0.07, Cohen’s d = 0.44; three times a week p=0.09, Cohen’s d = 0.34). There was no effect of training on DHEA,’ she said.
The study concluded that 12 weeks of training two or three times a week had a low to moderate effect on salivary cortisol and s-IgA. The increase in cortisol was not pathological and suggested an adaptive response in the HPA-axis to training three times a week. Training two or three times a week showed promise for increasing mucosal immunity in the elderly.
Dudhrajh said: ‘This is the first time saliva testing has been done on those living in old age homes in South Africa testing their mucosal immunity, salivary cortisol and salivary DHEA pre and post an exercise programme.’
Dudhrajh thanked her supervisor Professor Andrew McKune and co-supervisor Dr Serela Ramklass for guiding and motivating her throughout her study. ‘They have both been very inspiring and made this study possible in every way. Thanks also goes to Mr Sonny Govender for his invaluable assistance and advice during the lab work.’
Dudhrajh, who is busy with her masters dissertation,would like to continue with her saliva research as it is still a “new” field in in the country.
She enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as her dogs. ‘My faith in God keeps me going and I am also involved in a lot of religious/cultural activities.
‘I keep fit by doing Zumba and am a regular gym goer. I am involved in charitable activities run by the Chatsworth Regional Hospice Association.’