The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week for adults 65 years and older. This may be achieved in three bouts of 10 minutes each, five days a week.
According to the American College of Sports and Medicine, physical activity programs should focus on areas such as, balance, flexibility, aerobic and resistance training in order to maintain and/ or improve activities of daily living, cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness. As we age, our balance, flexibility and muscular strength begin to decline. Maintaining and improving all areas of fitness together will enhance ones overall independence.
When beginning any exercise program, remember to start slowly and to gradually increase the intensity of the activity with comfort. Safety considerations when engaging in physical activity include consulting your physician before beginning an exercise program, ensuring that you exercise on a stable surface (i.e. non- slip surface), placing a support surface near by (i.e. sturdy chair, grab bar or a wall for support) and wearing proper footwear. The benefits of engaging in physical activity result in improvement in ones quality of function, sleep, mood and independence.
The International Council on Active Aging states that balance exercises prevent falls, improve stability, coordination and mobility. Improving and maintaining balance is needed in order to perform flexibility, aerobic and resistance training exercises. For example, balance is needed to maintain control of one’s body position when walking or changing one’s body position.
A Human Kinetics article entitled The Importance and Purpose of Flexibility explains that flexibility training is important as it enables an individual to improve posture and to remain independent. It is important to improve and/or maintain flexibility as it assists in aerobic and resistance training. Research has indicated that flexibility increases and restores the muscles’ range of motion. Static stretching is an example of flexibility training. Activities of static stretching bring the joint to a comfortable end range of motion.
An Active Living Coalition for Older Adults report states that, aerobic exercise helps improve and/or maintain coordination, strength and aerobic endurance. Aerobic exercise measures the functional component of the cardiovascular, respiratory and musculoskeletal system to perform activities for an extended period of time. Activities of aerobic exercise may include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aqua fit and dancing.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends 2 days of resistance training per week. Resistance training offers a variety of health benefits which include falls prevention, increase in bone density (i.e. reducing the risk of osteoporosis), endurance, muscular strength, balance and function. Additionally, resistance training aids in management of chronic diseases such as, heart disease and diabetes by increasing the body’s metabolism and reducing body fat. Resistant training exercises can mimic activities of daily living such as, carrying grocery bags or getting up or off a chair.
Physical activity results in a variety of health benefits. Researchers have indicated that the cardiovascular, muscular and cognitive functions improve and benefit from exercises such as, aerobic and resistance training. All areas of exercise such as, balance, flexibility, aerobic and resistance training complement each other in order to prevent falls, improve one’s posture, cardiovascular and muscular fitness and management of disease(s).
Participating in safe and enjoyable physical activity is key to maintaining and improving one’s overall independence.