While regular physical activity is important for people of all ages, it has been shown that the benefits of regular exercise are the most important to the people who tend to exercise the least—people over 50, and even more so, people over 60.
There are numerous benefits of exercise, including:
In addition, regular exercise may prevent the onset of certain diseases and the effects of many chronic diseases of aging, including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Given these compelling reasons to exercise regularly, why don't more people over 50 do it? The excuses range from feeling too old, to having a specific medical condition, to not having enough time, to feeling out of place. But the truth is that almost anyone of any age can participate in some type of physical activity, including people with certain conditions. Fortunately, beneficial results can occur from as little as 30 minutes of exercise three or more times per week. Also encouraging for the 50 plus crowd is that many gyms, health clubs, swim clubs, walking clubs, YMCAs, and senior centers are offering more exercise programs geared toward their age group.
Before starting any exercise program, you should have a thorough physical and get the go-ahead from your physician. If you have a condition, your doctor will also want to make recommendations about what exercise program will be most suitable for you, set any necessary limitations on that program, and monitor your progress.
When you have approval from your doctor, what should you aim for? The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines to gain health benefits:
To gain even more health benefits, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends these weekly goals:
Remember that it is okay if you exercise for just 10 minutes at a time!
Include these exercises in your weekly routine:
Aerobic exercise is anything that causes an increase in the overall activity of your cardiovascular system for a sustained period. Over time, aerobic activity conditions your body in general, and your heart and lungs in particular, to be able to perform a greater amount of work with less effort.
Even minimal increases in aerobic activity can be beneficial, but try to reach the goals mentioned above. The best approach would be to try to exercise every day.
Factor in the following two elements:
In addition to toning your body and making all movement less strenuous, strength training helps to support your joints, thus preventing arthritic problems and reducing the chance of injuries caused by falls.
There are a range of strengthening exercises that you can do. Some examples include using:
Doing exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and lunges also build your muscles. Remember to start slowly with your new routine.
Stretching exercises serve a number of purposes, including maintaining full motion in your joints, keeping muscles from shortening and tightening, preventing or lessening the effects of arthritis, and preventing injuries by increasing agility and mobility. A physical trainer can help you design a stretching regimen that you can do every day.
Other tips can also improve your exercise experience:
Finally, if you experience any of the following symptoms during exercise, stop right away!
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The American College of Sports Medicine
National Institute on Aging
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology
Chapter 5: Active older adults. US Department of Health & Human Services website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/chapter5.aspx. Published 2008. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Frankel JE, Bean JF, Frontera WR. Exercise in the elderly: research and clinical practice. Clin Geriatr Med. 2006; 22(2): 239-256; vii.
How much physical activity do older adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/olderadults.html. Updated December 1, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2013.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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