Exercise for the elderly
Article date: 12 February 2014
The amount of exercise that each individual needs to do depends on a number of different factors - one of which is age.
However, growing older does not mean that all of a sudden you do not need to be exercising like a younger, more sprightly individual should be. It just means you may want to carry out different forms of exercise.
How long do I need to exercise for when I'm older?
How long you need to spend exercising depends entirely on the kind of activity you are doing - that is, how intense it is.
Official guidelines suggest that adults aged over 65 who are fit and not limited in any way should aim to be active on a daily basis, if possible. Not only does this ensure they will be keeping fit, but it also helps to establish a sense of routine, which can be a great source of comfort for more elderly individuals.
If you fall into this age category and favour moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, you should aim to carry out at least 150 minutes of this every single week. This includes cycling, walking briskly, doing water aerobics, dancing, playing doubles tennis or mowing the lawn. Even doing the housework can count, so you may like to get out the polish and kill two birds with one stone!
Alternatively, you might prefer to do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise once a week instead. This would include going for a run, playing a game of singles tennis (N.B. not doubles), swimming relatively fast, doing an aerobics class or practising a sport, such as martial arts or football.
Of course, other individuals might like to mix things up altogether and carry out both moderate and vigorous-intensity exercise, which is just as recommended. A way to work out which category exercise falls into is with moderate intensity, you should still be able to talk, but not sing along to a song. If the exercise you are doing is more vigorous, then it will be difficult to say much at all before needing to gasp for air.
Will I need to do anything else?
Unfortunately, aerobic exercise is only half of what needs to be done. Whatever age you are, it is also important to carry out muscle-strengthening exercises in order to safeguard the tone of all of the various muscle groups that keep your body's mobility ticking over, among other things.
Adults over the age of 65 should be doing such work-outs at least twice a week. These include yoga, weight-lifting and activities involving stepping, jumping and resistance training.
What's great about muscle-strengthening exercises is they can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Just carrying heavy groceries home will help to strengthen your muscles, while digging in the garden will do the same.
The way these are measured is not in periods of time, like the aerobic activities mentioned earlier, but in repetitions - or reps. Rather, a rep is doing an exercise once and then when you have completed the action a certain number of times, this is called a set.
You should aim to do around ten reps in each set, with each set for every muscle group carried out at least once - but ideally two or three times if you think you can manage it! Keep going until you will find it hard to complete another set.
The repetitive nature of exercising in this way can also prove to be meditative - especially in the form of yoga or pilates, for example - which may boost your mental wellbeing, as well as your physical health.
The added benefits of a social life
Especially as we grow older and retire, it can be all too easy to succumb to a relatively sedentary lifestyle. However, you will be helping to keep fit merely by avoiding sitting on the sofa and watching television too much. Wandering to the shops or to see a friend for coffee may not feel like exercise, but it is better than sitting still and doing nothing.
This is why, while it may also come with a whole wealth of psychological benefits, nurturing an active and fulfilling social life can also help you to keep fit and active when you are older.