Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging

Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging

April 13, 2023

As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent or delay many of the health problems that seem to come with age. It also helps your muscles grow stronger so you can keep doing your day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.

Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than none. Your health benefits will also increase with the more physical activity that you do.

Adults aged 65 and older need:

  • At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
  • At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot about 3 times a week.

If chronic conditions affect your ability to meet these recommendations, be as physically active as your abilities and conditions allow.

Move More and Sit Less

Older adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than none. Older adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity gain some health benefits. Your health benefits will also increase with the more physical activity that you do.

Older adults should follow the exercises as specified in the following options. Check out this print-friendly age chart for a quick snapshot of the recommended amount of weekly activity for adults.

  • Multicomponent physical activity includes more than one type of physical activity, such as aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and balance training. Multicomponent physical activity can be done at home or in a community setting as part of a structured program. Activities may include gait, coordination, and physical function training. Recreational activities such as dancing, yoga, tai chi, gardening, or sports can also be considered multicomponent because they often incorporate multiple types of physical activity.
  • Older adults should include stretching and balance activities as part of their weekly physical activity. Doing multicomponent physical activities can help reduce the risk of injury from falls and improve physical function.

Aerobic Activity – What Counts?

Aerobic physical activity or “cardio” gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster. From pushing a lawn mower, to taking a dance class, to walking or biking to the store – these types of activities and more count. If you’re doing aerobics physical activities at a moderate- or vigorous-intensity, they count towards meeting the aerobic guideline. Even something as simple as walking is a great way to get the aerobic activity you need if it’s at a moderately intense pace.

Intensity is how hard your body is working during physical activity. Try a few of these aerobic activities:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Some yard work, such as raking and pushing a lawn mower
  • Bicycle riding (stationary or outdoors)
  • Water aerobics

How do you know if you’re doing moderate or vigorous aerobic activity?

On a 10-point scale, where sitting is 0 and working as hard as you can is 10, moderate-intensity aerobic activity is a 5 or 6. It will make you breathe harder and your heartbeat faster. You’ll also notice that you’ll be able to talk, but not sing the words to your favorite song.

Vigorous-intensity activity is a 7 or 8 on this scale. Your heart rate will increase quite a bit, and you’ll be breathing hard. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without stopping to catch your breath.

You can do moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a mix of the two each week. Intensity is how hard your body is working during aerobic activity. A rule of thumb is that 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

Everyone’s fitness level is different. This means that walking may feel like a moderate-intensity activity to you, but for others, it may feel vigorous. It all depends on you – the shape you’re in, what you feel comfortable doing, and your health condition. What’s important is that you do physical activities that are right for you and your abilities.

Muscle-strengthening Activities – What Counts?

Besides aerobic activity, you need to do things to make your muscles stronger at least 2 days a week. These types of activities will help keep you from losing muscle as you get older.

To gain health benefits, you need to do muscle-strengthening activities to the point where it’s hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing one sit-up. Try to do 8-12 repetitions per activity, which counts as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or the gym. The activities you choose should work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). You may want to try:

  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (push-ups, sit-ups)
  • Heavy gardening (digging, shoveling)
  • Some forms of yoga

Balance Activity — What Counts?

Balance activities help prevent falling. Walking backward, standing on one leg, or using a wobble board are examples of balance activities. Strengthening back, abdomen, and leg muscles also improves balance.

Date Acquired: 3/10/2023