Everyone knows the importance of exercise for good health, but does exercise remain as important as we age?

The effect of aging on the body
As we age, many changes occur in our muscles, bones, joints and brain.

Bones – from the age of 30 our bone density begins to decrease, and this accelerates for women following menopause. This can cause bones to become more fragile and may result in an increased risk of osteoporosis as you age.

Muscle – muscle loss starts at around the age of 30 and progressively decreases as we age. This process causes the amount of muscle tissue and the number/size of muscle fibres to gradually decrease. Losses in strength can also place increased stress on joints and may increase the risk of arthritis occurring.
Joints – the aging process can cause cartilage inside the joint to become thinner and joints to become more susceptible to damage or even osteoarthritis. As well as this, ligaments and tendons can become brittle or rigid, limiting joint movement and causing stiffness.

Brain – as we age, changes in basic brain functions can occur including decreases in memory and attention span.

The benefits of exercise for older adults
Regular exercise can:

  • Decrease your risk of developing chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
  • Improve general cognitive functioning and potentially delay cognitive losses associated with aging.
  • Decrease the risk of falls, improve balance and retain mobility.
  • Help to treat and/or manage common bone and joint disorders such as osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis.
  • Improve your mood and help you manage stress levels.
  • Help you stay independent in your home and the community.

How much exercise and what kind?
Similar to other age groups, it is recommended that older adults (those over 65 years) complete 150-minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise or 75-minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Session should be completed in at least 10-minute blocks. Moderate intensity activity may include:

  • Walking
  • Riding a bike
  • Swimming
  • Dancing

Moderate activity is continuous exercise that increases your breathing rate somewhat, but so that you are still able to maintain conversation. Vigorous activity is exercise in which your breathing in heavier and it is difficult for you to hold a conversation; these activities may include running, team sports, skipping and hiking. It is important to remember that the intensity of an activity is subjective, and will depend on your fitness levels.

It is also recommended that older adults complete 2 sessions of muscle strengthening exercise a week. These exercises could include:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using resistance bands
  • Using your body weight as resistance (eg, push ups, body weight squats, etc)

Strength sessions are often overlooked by older adults, but they play an important role in counteracting the age-related losses in muscle and bone and helping retain the ability to perform essential activities of daily living such as lifting groceries and maintaining self-care.

So how do I get started?
For a healthy adult over 65 the activity guidelines may be able to be met independently or with friends, family or other community members.

For adults with existing medical conditions, it may be best to consult your doctor or another health professional before commencing a new exercise program. An Exercise Physiologist is an expert in exercise and has the skill set to educate you about how to exercise safely as you age and when exercising with various health conditions.

At STEPS we also offer an over 60’s exercise group for just $5! This group incorporates both aerobic and strengthening exercise to assist you in increasing your strength, fitness, balance and coordination. The group is chair-based and highly modifiable, making it suitable for women of all fitness levels.

The group runs on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30pm. Give us a call on (03) 5441 8008 to book your place today.


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