Exercise is beneficial at any life stage. In older adults, it reduces fatigue, increases feelings of well-being, reduces the symptoms of depression, decreases the risk of falls, strengthens bones, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk for osteoporosis, which are the main reasons for emphasizing physical activity goals in this population group.
According to the latests guidelines issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, physical activity is essential for healthy aging. However, people over 65 years of age are usually the population group with the lowest physical activity level.
The guidelines for this age group are focused on both aerobic and muscle-strenghtening exercises. It's essential to consider the current physical activity level of older adults, in oder to begin gradually and progressively to meet the recommended goals.
Since older adults are more prone to injuries, they should initially avoid intense aerobic activities and gradually increase the frequency (days a week) and duration of physical activity. A healthy recommendation is to start with a maximum of 10 minutes of low intensity physical activity, such as walking.
The guidelines set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services indicate that older adults who are not physically active should focus on doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, along with muscle-strengthening activities 2 to 3 times a week on alternate or non-consecutive days. Muscle-strengthening exercises are important to reduce the risk of falls, since they help to increase the strength of legs and hips.
The reduction of falls is one of the most important benefits of exercise within this age group, since its risk of developing osteoporosis is higher and falls may cause serious bone injuries. This is why it is also recommended to carry out activities that improve balance three or more times per week. Some examples of these activities are: walking backwards, walking on your heels or toes, getting up from chairs without using your hands or arms, and, occasionally, walking in a straight line putting one foot in front of the another.
If a person can't do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week due to a chronic condition, he/she should try to be as physically active as possible, according to his/her abilities and health condition.
Always keep in mind that exercise shouldn't cause pain or exhaustion. It's okay to feel a little discomfort or tiredness, but these sensations should decrease over time. Also, remember to finish every exercise session with a stretching routine as cooldown.
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