Older adult fitness program helps the senior population stay independent.

I found an interesting study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that supports public health initiatives designed to engage older adults in fitness programs; even those who are of advanced age.

Participants in the study who took up physical activity, were also more likely to remain healthy, compared with those who continued to be inactive.

 The findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine show that it’s never too late to get fit and enjoy its physical and mental benefits. 

Over the four year study (3,454 people, average age 64), nearly 9% became active, 70% continued with moderate or vigorous activities at least once a week, and nearly 12% became inactive.  To give examples of the activity levels; the Public Health Agency of Canada lists walking quickly or bike riding as moderate-intensity aerobic activity and jogging or cross-country skiing as vigorous.

 Participants who reported moderate activity were 3.1 times more likely to be healthy agers, and those who took part in vigorous activity were 4.3 times more likely to be healthy agers, when compared with inactive participants.


The physical decline of older age:

 About half of the physical decline associated with ageing may be due to a lack of physical activity. Without regular exercise, people over the age of 50 years can experience a range of health problems including:

• Decreased muscle mass, strength and physical endurance.

• Lowered coordination and balance.

• Reduced joint flexibility and mobility.

• Reduced cardiovascular and respiratory function.

• Reduced bone strength.

• Increased body fat levels.

• Higher blood pressure.

• Higher susceptibility to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

• Increased risk of various diseases including cardiovascular disease and stroke. 

Some of the common misconceptions that prompt older people to abandon physical activity include:

• Many older people believe that exercise is no longer appropriate.

• Older people are frail and physically weak.

• The human body doesn’t need as much physical activity as it ages.

• Exercising is hazardous for older people because they may injure themselves.

• Only vigorous and sustained exercise is of any use.

Independent living means being able to do the things you want to do, safely and on your own, senior fitness programwhen you want to.  To stay independent and keep your quality of life, you need to be able to reach, bend, lift, carry, maintain balance and move around easily. Staying physically active will help you to keep moving, and stay strong. 

There are many benefits of regular exercise for older people, including:

Gaining and Maintaining Muscle – 

            As you age, your muscle will atrophy (shrink).  For every decade above the age of 50, you lose about 5 – 8 pound of muscle.  The type of muscle you seem to lose the most is the ‘fast twitch’ fibres.  These are the fibres most responsible for strength and fast contractions.  (Think of when you lose your balance and have to quickly step forward to catch yourself).  You can still gain muscle at an older age, it just might take a bit longer.

Strengthening Bones – 

            Weight bearing exercises will help to keep your bones strong and healthy.  With bone density decreasing after the age of 40 and accelerating after the age of 50, strength training is very important.  As a result of this bone loss, older people are more prone to bone fractures and breaks.

Heart and lungs – 

            Exercising at a moderate pace (heart rate of 70% of your heart rate maximum  {220 – [age] 60 = 160 X 70% = 112 bpm}) is the best way to increase your cardio strength.  The benefits are the same at any age, but it does take longer to get them.  Regardless of age, anyone can improve their cardiorespiratory fitness with regular exercise. 

Joint Movement and Mobility –  

            The joints of the body require regular movement to remain supple and healthy. In particular, people with arthritis can benefit from aerobic and strengthening exercise programs.

Body fat levels – 

            With regular exercise, body fat levels can be kept to an appropriate level for your height and build.  Extra body fat can contribute to a range of diseases including cardiovascular and diabetes.  As mentioned before, regular exercise helps to increase muscle mass but also burns more calories and speeds up metabolism (to keep body fat levels in check).

 Suggestions for getting active –

 If you’re older than 40 years and have not exercised in quite a while (or not at all), please contact your doctor before starting any physical activity program.

Choose an activity that you like, and would want to keep doing.  Try not to fall into the trap of joining an activity that you don’t like.  You’ll never stay with it, and will most likely stop before you see any of the benefits.

Join a group or start a group of your own.  Exercising with friends is a great way to stay social and fit.  

senior fitness programStart with something simple, like biking or swimming or walking.  Make sure you take it slow at first, and pick up the intensity later.  For example, you could try Walking with a pace as if you are late for an appointment.  This is a great way to ensure you are walking hard enough to increase cardio by breathing a little faster.  Along with being out of breath, working at a hard intensity will hit muscles in more of a strength building way.  When you walk at a lower intensity, it’s more locomotion than strength building, but something is better than nothing.  Start slow, and try to build some strength alone the way.

Keep track of your progress so you can see just how much benefit you’re getting.

When in doubt of how or where to start an exercise program, hire a professional personal trainer that will come to your home or condominium gym.  (Just FYI, I can come to your home or condo gym).

 If you feel out of breath or abnormally week, check your pulse. Make sure it’s around that 70% mark.  At age 60, your HR should be around 112 beats per minute, (220 – [age] 60 = 160 X .70 = 112 bpm). 

Remember to drink plenty of water.  Your body uses more water than you think.  Breathing, heightened body heat, even just moving around will make you use up water.  

Different organizations have tried to estimate levels and frequency of physical activity using different yardsticks, with similar findings. According to Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living for Older Adults, 60% of older adults are not sufficiently active to achieve optimal full health benefits. 

 According the National Population Health Survey (NPHS) data, 14% of seniors were sufficiently active, 21% were moderately active and 65% were inactive

If you’re interested in the older adult fitness training, either for you or a parent, please contact me. Just reply to this and mention that you’d like a consultation to see how I can help you.
I can come to your house or condo, or if you prefer, we can meet at my private training studio.

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