Thursday, September 23, 2010

Exercise and the Older Adult

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My mother in-law asked me today if she could take any pf the classes that I teach once she's "fully recovered" from her recent bout of pneumonia. She is in her early 70s and her activity level consists mainly of household work and walking the dog which are both excellent forms of physical activity but she has never taken or participated in any type of group fitness classes or exercise program including resistance training. This made me ponder even more --- what type of exercise program should she start out with?

We all know that exercise is beneficial to our health and as we age, this becomes more important. Exercise will not stop the biological clock but it will help slow the progression  and even maximize the work capacity of most of our organs. Unfortunately, many older adults think that it is too late to start an exercise program and that is a big MYTH. Age is not an excuse and as long as the exercise is done prudently and with a physician's input, then exercise for older adults can be very safe and can make a significant difference! Engaging in a healthy lifestyle and smart food choices can not only lengthen but improve our quality of life.

Bottom line is Exercise = living longer!

General guidelines: 
STRENGTH: Low to moderate intensity, higher reps, utilize machine or partner-assisted routines until a good base level of strength is reached
FREQUENCY: 2-3 x /week in conjunction with a cardiovascular program
DURATION: work up to 60 minutes total, 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of resistance training
INTENSITY: Low to moderate--should be 60-75% of maximum heart rate (220 minus age)
FLEXIBILITY: a must after each session

P.S. Medical clearance is a must for those who are 55 and over who wishes to start an exercise program.

Some ideal exercise routines include:
Cardio: Walking, stair climbing, swimming, hiking, rowing, tennis, dancing
Strength: using free weights (ex. weight ball), body weight, machines, or elastic bands
Flexibility: ROM exercises (static or ballistic)
Balance: Yoga, Tai Chi

Further reading:
Exercise and Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute of Aging
Exercise and Physical Activity for the Older Adult
Senior Exercise and Fitness Tips
An Exercise Routine for the Over 60s

"I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a little discipline. Exercise is my discipline". -- Jack LaLanne

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