It's never too late to start getting active. Being fit is
important to everyone. You can benefit from physical activity even if you think
of yourself as "elderly" or you already have conditions such asosteoarthritisor heart disease. Being more active may
improve your quality of life and can prevent or delay disability.
You can work on all three areas of fitness: aerobic fitness, muscle
strengthening, and flexibility. Follow these general guidelines:
Don't overdo it! If it hurts, stop. Some minor soreness or
stiffness is to be expected at first, but pain is a warning sign to
If you have been inactive for years, start with about 5 to 10
minutes of activity at a time, and increase your time as you get more
comfortable with the activity.
Try to improve only a little bit at
a time. Pick one area for improvement first. Set your personal goal in that
area and meet the goal before trying another area.
Although many people decrease their exercise as they age,
continuing to exercise has definite benefits.
Flexibility and stretching, which help provide a
full range of motion for muscles andjoints, can help you function at home, at work, and
socially. Everyday tasks that are difficult-such as tying shoelaces or reaching
to a shelf-may become easier. When you stay flexible, you also keep a more
natural walking pattern and decrease your chance of falling. Most flexibility
that is seemingly lost through aging is caused not by aging but by inactivity
or lack of movement.
Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and
reduces the risk ofcoronary artery disease. It can also increase the
amount of sleep you get at night and may reduce the time it takes to fall
Strengthening exercises can help you maintain your muscle,
strengthen bones, and protect knees and other joints. These exercises can
include resistance training, such as lifting weights, and weight-bearing
exercise such as walking, jogging, or dancing.
exercises help you maintain good posture. They can also be helpful to improve
coordination and reduce your risk for falls. One type of balance exercise is to
stand on one leg for 10 seconds. Stand on a flat surface and use a stable
object (such as a heavy chair) for support.
Exercise has specific health benefits for older adults.
Physical activity does not have to be strenuous. Older
adults can gain significant health benefits with a moderate amount of physical
activity. This can be done in longer sessions of moderately intense activities
(such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous activities (such as
fast walking or stair-walking).
Exercise caution signs for older adults
When you exercise, you do experience
minor muscle and joint soreness. But other signs may point to something more
serious. Stop exercising if you develop:
Chest or upper abdominal pain that may spread to
the neck, jaw, upper back, shoulder, and arms. Call911immediately if this occurs. Chest pain
can be a signal of aheart attack.
Nied RJ, Franklin B (2002). Promoting and prescribing
exercise for the elderly.American Family Physician,
Nelson ME, et al. (2007). Physical activity and public
health in older adults: Recommendation from the American College of Sports
Medicine and the American Heart Association.Circulation, 116(9): 1094-1105.