U.S. National Institute of Health http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exercise/benefits03.html
Scientific studies show that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Scientists find that even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail, or who have diseases that accompany aging.
Exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself, but some older adults are reluctant to exercise. Some are afraid that exercise will be too strenuous, or that physical activity will harm them. Yet, studies show that exercise is safe for people of all age groups and that older adults hurt their health far more by not exercising than by exercising.
An inactive lifestyle can cause older people to lose ground in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent: STRENGTH, BALANCE, FLEXIBILITY and ENDURANCE. But research suggests that exercise and physical activity can help older people maintain or partly restore these four areas.
Growing older doesn't mean people have to lose their strength or their ability to do everyday tasks. Exercise can help older adults feel better and enjoy life more, even those who think they're too old or too out of shape. Increasing strength and endurance make it easier to climb stairs and carry groceries. Improving balance helps prevent falls. Being more flexible may speed recovery from injuries. If you make exercise a regular part of your daily routine, it will have a positive impact on your quality of life as you get older.
Margaret Richard: The immediate benefits were very apparent. I started developing muscle tone. I felt more vigorous. My balance improved. And there were benefits that I wasn't even aware of (20 years ago, like) increasing the density of my bones and making my metabolism more efficient. Now we understand that it's more than skin deep, the advantages. But, it's also nice to look in the mirror and see that your shape is defined by your muscles rather than body fat. I feel young. I feel wonderful when I exercise. It makes me feel vital. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I'm doing something wonderful for myself and sometimes, even if I'm a little tired when I start working out what I look forward to is, well, the process of working out, but also the end of the workout when I feel very relaxed and I love everyone.
(For more details and videos, See http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exercise/toc.html)
American Heart Association: Scientific Position
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also contributes to other risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, a low level of HDL ("good") cholesterol and diabetes. Even modest levels of physical activity are beneficial.
Older adults and people with disabilities can gain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. Physical activity doesn't need to be strenuous to bring health benefits. What's important is to include activity as part of a regular routine.
For older adults, this moderate amount of activity can come from
Greater amounts of physical activity can bring more benefits. But it should not be done excessively, or your risk of injury will increase.
People with disabilities are less likely than people without them to engage in regular moderate physical activity. Still, they can benefit from exercise such as these:
Those who are physically active longer or more intensely will derive greater benefits.
Scientific evidence also supports the notion that even moderate-intensity activities, when performed daily, can have some long-term health benefits. They help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Here are examples of such activities:
For the elderly, walking, gardening, yard work and dancing are the most popular moderate-intensity leisure activities. Golf, badminton, croquet, shuffleboard, lawn bowling and table tennis are also recommended for older people.
Muscle-strengthening activities are also important for older people to reduce the risk of falling and improve the ability to perform daily tasks. The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is due, in part, to reduced physical activity.
Both older adults and people with disabilities should consult their physicians before starting a new physical activity.
AHA Scientific Statements:
Statement on Exercise
CV Policies at Health/Fitness Facilities
Physical Activity in Primary and Secondary Prevention
Related AHA publications:
(See also our material on Joyful Dancing)
Author: Gary Gilles 9/23/2002, Editors: Andrea King, Joanne Poeggel, Clinical Reviewer: Patt Panzer, M.D., M.P.H.
It was once believed that lifting weights was too strenuous for older people, but a new study suggests that resistance exercise can improve strength and endurance in older men and women. The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, reveals that both low- and high-intensity resistance training offer the same benefits to healthy older adults.
Low-intensity exercises include high repetitions with lighter weights. People in high-intensity training use heavier weights, but do fewer repetitions.
These findings confirm that individual lifestyle choices - not genetics - have a greater influence over the aging process. People who exercise on a regular basis get the following benefits:
Without regular exercise, people start to lose muscle strength in their 30s. At 60 or 70, the lack of muscle strength is quite noticeable - as well as physical limitations that result from the loss. People with reduced muscle strength have a hard time performing such simple tasks as getting out of bed or carrying groceries. Consequently, many people adopt unhealthy sedentary lifestyles.
Resistance training, or exercising with weights, helps maintain and restore muscle and bone density strength. You use muscle strength to perform such activities as climbing stairs and other daily tasks.
Health professionals suggest scheduling exercise into your daily routine. The more consistently these are practiced, the greater the benefit. While resistance training has many important benefits, your well-rounded exercise routine also should include:
1. “Exercise for Health Aging,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, September 19, 2002.
2. Vincent, K.R., et al.: “Resistance Exercise and Physical Performance in Adults Aged 60 to 83,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, June 10, 2002.
3. “Promoting Active Lifestyles Among Older Adults,” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, July 23, 2002.
4. “The Latest Research on Resistance Training and Aging,” American Federation for Aging Research, 2001.