Thursday, April 2, 2015

How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need?



I am an older adult – soon to reach my 70th birthday. It is surely a wonder to me that I have gotten here so soon. The young don’t know how quickly the years go by. 

Throughout my adult life I have tried to maintain a level of fitness through physical activity. I’m aware that physical activity and fitness are good for my body, mind and spirit. My belief in fitness is not just based on what my doctor tells me – I know it from personal experience. 

I’ve jogged a lot of miles, spent wonderful hours on the racketball court, and lifted a lot of weights. Now that I’m older the jogging and racketball are gone – replaced by walking and swimming and biking. I still do try to put in time with weights each week. I don’t work with a personal trainer, although I probably should. But it’s expensive and time consuming.

Without a trainer to guide me, how do I know how much I should be doing each week to maintain a decent level of fitness? Fortunately the US Government’s The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some guidelines (and goals). If you are like me, 65 years of age or older, generally fit, with no limiting health conditions here are the CDC’s recommendations. 



2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
OR
1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms).
OR
An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). 

Source: CDC, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2011. 


If, like me, you are an older adult who wants to maintain general fitness while you age, I recommend you visit the CDC webpage hyperlinked above. It has a lot of additional information and answers questions like: What counts as aerobic activity? How do you know if you're doing moderate or vigorous aerobic activity? What counts as muscle strengthening activity?  It also has links to other resources. 

What if you have a condition that prevents you from following the CDC guidelines? 

If you cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of a chronic condition, the government recommends that you should try to be as physically active as your abilities and conditions allow. And be sure to talk with your health care professionals about how your condition affects your ability to do regular physical activity safely. 

If you are at risk of falling, try to include exercises that maintain or improve your balance. Falls are the most common cause of injury for older adults.

Further Reading:



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