We often discuss how vital it is to be (or become) physically active, no matter one’s age, to achieve healthy aging.
Our senior loved ones can improve functional status, reduce the risk of falls with injury, and increase the level of their socialization when they participate in physical activity with others, whether it’s done with a friend or as part of a formal program.
Physical activity is so important to our seniors’ health it was included as a key pillar at the White House Conference on Aging and the month of September has been designated Go4Life month, promoting the physical activity theme: Be Active Every Day!
The National Institute of Aging, a government agency that conducts research on aging and shares that information with the public to improve our health, has a program that all family caregivers could benefit from to help our senior loved ones get more active – Go4Life!
Health experts agree that seniors can gain health benefits by becoming and staying physically active. Even someone with heart disease or other chronic medical conditions can improve their health outcomes with physical activity.
To gain health benefits, older adults are encouraged to exercise at least 150 minutes each week using moderate intensity aerobic activity AND muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week involving all muscle groups.
A senior could choose to do 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity a week AND muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week using all major muscle groups.
Most experts agree that 10 minutes of activity at a time to reach your goal spread throughout the day and week is fine. It is not necessary to do it all at one time to gain benefits.
It is important to remember that the more exercise your senior does, within reason of course, the greater the health benefits. A senior could increase the time or intensity of the workouts to get an added benefit.
Many people are currently walking, whether when they go to the mall or walk in the neighborhood. Getting a cardiac, and therefore health, benefit comes when we can get our heart rate up. Unfortunately, a leisurely stroll isn’t the same as an aerobic exercise.
An aerobic activity should leave your senior breathing harder and heart beating faster for ten minutes. If your activity is moderate, you can talk but not sing a song and during vigorous activity you can only say a few words before catching your breath.
- Walking briskly
- Mowing the lawn
- Riding a bike
- Playing tennis
- Jumping rope
- Water aerobics
Have you heard of this program? It is a campaign from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health promoting physical activity for seniors.
They provide a wealth of materials, tips and sample exercises to help all seniors make physical activity a part of their everyday lives in order to manage or prevent chronic medical conditions.
Their information is based on the latest science so your senior will be able to trust that the information is valid and safe to use.
Based on research, we know there are health benefits associated with being more physically active. We know benefits can be realized by people at any age and physical ability.
Exercising should be based on your ability – – not your age!
Exercises for All Needs
People with mobility impairments, arthritis or chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, will gain improved health using the information at Go4Life.
The sample exercises are all modifiable for those with mobility issues and can be done from a seated position if needed. Exercise can help seniors with mobility and improved transfers as well as reducing the likelihood of falling when their muscles are strong and their balance is improved.
There are tips for exercising indoors when the weather is too hot, cold or wet outside. There are also take along exercises if you are going on vacation. If your senior becomes ill and has to stop exercising, there is a plan to help them get back on track when they are able.
You and your senior should check out the campaign at Go4Life, where you can get all the information at no cost, including a virtual health coach who will send tips, exercise alerts and motivation to stay active. There are also tracking tools that will show your senior how well they are improving and a DVD that you can get for free that includes exercises.
Each part of the Get Ready, Get Set, Go! program includes a different part of the journey such as goal setting, nutrition information, staying safe tips, exercises, and downloadable tools.
There are four components that should all be included in your senior’s plan – endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Strength activities help to prevent falls and flexibility activities help to make completing the activities of daily living easier.
These activities should become a part of your senior’s daily routine.
Good News for Older Women
Family caregivers and the older women for whom they care will appreciate this latest study.
Researchers in Canada found that post-menopausal women who participate in five hours per week of exercise that increases their heart rate, moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise, lost a significantly higher amount of body fat compared to those women who exercised less. These women lost belly fat and decreased their waist circumference as well as waist-to-hip ratio.
The women in the study did any type of aerobic exercise they wished as long as their heart rate was within 65% to 75% of their heart rate reserve for a minimum of half of their workout. The heart rate reserve is the difference between a resting and maximum heart rate.
Some aerobic exercises used included walking, bicycling, elliptical trainer or running.
These researchers stated that exercising for the minimum 150 minutes will yield health benefits but exercising 300 minutes will give you a much greater benefit. They warn to be sure to exercise according to your abilities to prevent injuries.
What We Can Do
We know it is so important to healthy aging to adopt some form of daily physical activity. The more our seniors do, the better improvement they will have in their health.
Family caregivers can support and encourage seniors participation in some type of activity they enjoy. You may need to set it up, transport them to a class or location, or join in to be sure they are safe when participating.
The entire family can get involved by enjoying intergenerational activities. Find ways to be active together, not only to get moving but also socialize and make memories!