Congratulations to all of those who participated in the Wyoming Senior Olympics hosted here in Laramie last weekend. How neat to see an active ageing population come together to compete in physical tasks of prowess. Whether you were competing in those events for a lifetime or saw an opportunity to try something new, I stand inspired and proud of all of you.
To keep that Olympic flame alive in your hearts, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss some exercise recommendations for older adults as presented by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Considering the ageing process, I highlight points from a peer-reviewed article that speak to some age-specific considerations regarding aerobic exercise intensity, flexibility, balance, and strength.
I could argue (or maybe you could argue) age is just a number, not a diagnosis. I hear you, and I love the attitude. But for the purposes of this discussion, if you are 65 and beyond, you are an older adult. Embrace it, wear it with pride and move well.
To promote and maintain health, shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 or more days per week. Or aim for at least 20 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise 3 days per week. What is moderate and what is vigorous? It depends on your current fitness level. What might be vigorous for some can be moderate for others. See the table below for some examples. Special note, this is the minimum recommended amount of purposeful aerobic exercise and is to be done in addition to your activities of daily living. If you seek to A) improve your fitness, B) improve management of an existing disease in which exercise has shown to be beneficial, or C) further reduce your risk of developing future health problems, more than the minimum is recommended.
To continue to do tasks of daily life such as get off the floor, reach into cabinets, tie your shoes, or use a toilet unassisted, older adults should mix in flexibility training at least two days per week for at least 10 minutes per session. I champion a daily practice of mobility and flexibility training and recommend you find excuses in your day to change shape and stretch as often as you can, like a cat, such as every time you take a drink of water or stand up from a chair or put your shoes on.
To reduce the risk of injury from falls, older adults should incorporate balance drills into their weekly practice. Three sessions per week for at least 10 minutes has shown improvement in populations of community-dwelling older adults. Examples include anything that exposes the mover to a balance-challenged environment such as narrow stance standing, slow controlled walking, single leg standing drills, etc. Balance is a function of strength and neuromuscular perception and control. Practice being out of balance in a controlled setting where injury risk is low and build those senses.
It is recommended older adults lift weights or engage in weight bearing activity twice per week while working through 8-10 exercises that target large muscle mass involvement such as squats, pushing, pulling, and lifting. One set of 10-15 repetitions should be sufficient to maintain or even improve muscle and bone health, provided the exertion of the exercise is hard by the end of the set.
References: Nelson, M. E., Rejeski, W. J., Blair, S. N., Duncan, P. W., Judge, J. O., King, A. C., ... Castaneda-Sceppa, C. (2007). Physical activity and public health in older adults: Recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation, 116(9), 1094-1105.
Kevin Bretting is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, personal trainer and owner of Move for Life Fitness-LLC. He is also a swing dance instructor and teaches classes at the Laramie Dance and Arts Center. He can be reached at email@example.com.