Older adults are the most physically inactive group of any population (Chodzko-Zajko et al. 2009).  While every person has a biological clock, the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle for seniors clearly indicate that many age-related illnesses and diseases can be slowed down. The health benefits of exercise for seniors include: lower risk of cardio vascular disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, cognitive impairment, anxiety and depression.

Following are the current health, frequency, intensity and duration for older adults from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2009 ACSM Exercise and Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults.  ACSM recommends performing physical activity that can be safely endured.

Exercise for Health

  • Do a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week
  • For greater health benefits, increase the duration, frequency and intensity of exercise.

Endurance Exercise

Frequency and Duration. With moderate-intensity activities, accumulate a total of 150-300 minutes a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more (up to 60 minutes for greater benefits) per day.  With vigorous-intensity activities, complete a total 75-150 minutes per week in 20-30 minute work bouts.

Intensity. Using a subjective assessment range of 0-10, let 5-6 represent moderate-intensity exertion and 7-8 signify vigorous-intensity effort.

Type. Use any exercise mode that does not trigger orthopedic stress to the body.  For clients with lower-extremity limitations, water exercise, walking, elliptical training and stationary cycling may be more advantageous, owing to their minimal-impact stresses.

Resistance Training

Frequency and intensity. Complete resistance training at least twice per week at a moderate (5-6 intensity on a 10 point scale) or vigorous (7-8) intensity.

Type. Do 8-10 progressive weight training exercises involving the major muscles of the body.  Weight bearing calisthenics and stair climbing are also beneficial.

Flexibility Exercise

Frequency and Intensity. Do stretching exercises at least 2 days per week at a moderate (5-6) intensity on the 0-10 scale.

Type. Perform static stretches that maintain and/or increase the desired range of motion for the selected joint of group of joints.

Balance Exercise for Frequent Fallers and Older Adults with Mobility Problems

At this time, research does not specify an optimal dose (frequency, intensity, time, duration) for balance exercises.  That said, the ACSM guidelines for balance include gradually more challenging exercises that reduce the base of balance support (e.g., two-legged stationary stand with legs different widths apart, weight shifting from one leg to the other, one-legged stand); dynamic movements that challenge the center of gravity (e.g., walking in a circle or figure eight and changing direction and speed); exercises that challenge the posture muscles (e.g., heel stands and toe stands); and movements that challenge sensory input (e.g. standing movements with eyes closed).

Source: Chodzkp-Zajko, et al.  2009.

As an exercise professional I am in a unique position to encourage seniors to learn more about exercise, nutrition, and metabolism which will challenge their minds and bodies.  I offer supervised programming – strategically designed and including cardiovascular exercise, resistance training, fall prevention, healthy nutrition education (within scope of practice).  It is a wonderful opportunity for me to work with seniors and help them enjoy a more satisfying life!

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