Q: I am 70 years old. I was wondering how much exercise is recommended for older adults?
A: The American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine have recently developed new exercise recommendations for people over age 65. The basic recommendations for adults over age 65 (or adults 50-64 with chronic conditions or physical functional limitations, such as arthritis, that affect movement ability or physical fitness) are:
¢ 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.
¢ Do 8-10 strength-training exercises, 10-15 repetitions of each exercise twice to three times per week.
¢ For older adults who are at risk of falling, perform balance exercises.
According to the ACSM and AHA, regular physical activity, including aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activity, is essential for healthy aging. This preventive recommendation specifies how older adults, by engaging in each recommended type of physical activity, can reduce risk of chronic disease, premature mortality, functional limitations and disability.
The key points to the guidelines for older adults include:
¢ Start, and get help if you need it. The general recommendation is that older adults should meet or exceed 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week; however, it is also recognized that goals below this threshold may be necessary for older adults who have physical impairments or functional limitations.
¢ Functional health is an important benefit of physical activity for older adults. Physical activity contributes to the ease of doing everyday activities, such as gardening, walking or cleaning the house.
¢ Strength training is extremely important. Strength training is important for all adults, but especially so for older adults, as it prevents loss of muscle mass and bone, and is beneficial for functional health.
¢ If you can exceed the minimum recommendations, do it. The minimum recommendations are just that: the minimum needed to maintain health and see fitness benefits. If you can exceed the minimum, you can improve your personal fitness, improve management of an existing disease or condition, and reduce your risk for health conditions and mortality.
¢ Flexibility also is important. Each day you perform aerobic or strength-training activities, take an extra 10 minutes to stretch the major muscle and tendon groups, with 10-30 seconds for each stretch. Repeat each stretch three to four times. Flexibility training will promote the ease of performing everyday activities.
Q: What is moderate-intensity physical activity for the older adult?
A: Because the term moderate physical activity cannot be defined in absolute terms for older adults, the ACSM and AHA recommends regulating intensity by using a subjective scale. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity involves a moderate level of effort relative to an individual's aerobic fitness. On a 10-point scale, where sitting is 0 and all-out effort is 10, moderate-intensity activity is a 5 or 6 and produces noticeable increases in heart rate and breathing. On the same scale, vigorous-intensity activity is a 7 or 8 and produces large increases in heart rate and breathing. For example, given the heterogeneity of fitness levels in older adults, for some older adults a moderate-intensity walk is a slow walk, and for others it is a brisk walk.
Q: How is strength training defined for the older adult?
A: To promote and maintain health and physical independence, older adults will benefit from performing activities that maintain or increase muscular strength and endurance for a minimum of two days each week. It is recommended that 8-10 exercises be performed on two to three nonconsecutive days using the major muscle groups.
To maximize strength development, a resistance (weight) should be used that allows 10-15 repetitions for each exercise. The level of effort for muscle-strengthening activities should be moderate to vigorous. On a 10-point scale, where no movement is 0, and maximal effort of a muscle group is 10, moderate effort is a 5 or 6 and vigorous effort is a 7 or 8.
Muscle-strengthening activities include a progressive-weight training program, weight-bearing calisthenics and similar resistance exercises that use the major muscle groups.
Muscle-strengthening activity is particularly important in older adults, given its role in preventing age-related loss of muscle mass, bone and its beneficial effects on functional limitations.
Currently, only about 12 percent of older adults perform muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
If you are 55 and over, you may be interested in enrolling in the four-week Personal Actions To Health class that is designed to motivate older adults to increase their awareness of the need for physical activity and good nutrition and to take actions that will lead toward better health. In 2008, the first session will take place 9 a.m.-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting Feb. 19 through March 13. For more information, ask for me at 843-7058 or Shirley Grubbs at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department at 843-0721.
- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.