The natural aging process without physical activity will result in natural decline in many body systems and structures. However, it does not have to be like this. Regular physical activity can slow down and/or reverse many of these processes. Endurance training can improve cardiovascular function and decrease risk factors associated with many common diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) which contributes to an increased life expectancy. Strength training helps offset the loss in muscle mass. Additional benefits also include increased ROM, postural stability, and bone health. Collectively, this results in improved health status, functional capacity, quality of life and independence as you age. After all you are only given one body and it is your responsibility to make sure it runs like a well oiled machine.
When many of you over the age of 65 think of exercise you may think of running a grueling marathon, endless pull-ups, or some other seemingly unobtainable challenge. You will be glad to know that it does not have to be this difficult. Although some 65 + year olds participate in marathons and triathlons on a regular basis, this may not be possible for everyone due to pre-existing medical conditions. One nice thing about exercise is that it meets you where you are. The more deconditioned you are the less you have to do with regard to intensity and duration initially to obtain a physiological response and vise versa.
So how much physical activity does someone 65 years and over need to do at a minimum to reap the many benefits of exercise? The answer to this question is best answered by looking at the guidelines for exercise for individuals over 65 years (or adults 50-64 with chronic conditions, such as arthritis) created by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA).
Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:
- Do moderately intense aerobic exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week Or
- Do vigorously intense aerobic exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week And Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, 10-15 repetitions of each exercise twice to three times per week
- And If you are at risk of falling, perform balance exercises
According to their guidelines moderate-intensity aerobic exercise is defined as working at about a level-six intensity on a scale of 10 with 10 being the most intense: You should still be able to carry on a conversation during exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic exercise can either be done continuously, or done in segments of no less than 10 minutes and accumulated over the period of the day.
Remember that prior to starting a new exercise routine you should always consult your physician first. Once you get the thumbs up remember to start slow if you are just beginning. Keep in mind these guidelines are the minimum amount of physical activity recommended to enjoy the benefits of exercise but more is encouraged if it can be done safely. If you have a medical condition that interferes with your exercise you should consult a physical therapist to help you develop an activity plan/exercise routine to manage risks and take therapeutic needs into account. Here at Total Rehab Center we develop individualized exercise programs for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions to maximize the benefits of physical activity and ensure safety. Exercise is a form of preventive medicine that makes you enjoy your health for as long as you can and is the closest thing you will find to the fountain of youth.