Why exercise is so important for older people

We all know by now the amazing mental and physical health benefits of exercise. Physical activity is essential for people of all ages, and some have even said the older you get the more important daily activity is for your health and wellbeing.

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

Older adults need aerobic and strength exercises each week for maximum physical health. According to NHS guidelines, older adults aged 65 or older, who are generally fit and have no health conditions that limit their mobility, should try to be active daily and should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like walking every week and strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscle groups.

These guidelines also recommend that if older adults choose to participate in a more vigorous exercise routine, they can decrease the number of minutes spent on aerobic activity if the intensity is increased. For example, exercise for 75 minutes - instead of 150 minutes weekly - if the aerobic activity is vigorous, such as running or a game of tennis.

As we age, our balance and posture seem to be areas that we need to focus our efforts on increasing. Older adults at risk of falls, such as people with weak legs, poor balance, and some medical conditions should also incorporate exercises that improve balance and coordination at least two days a week.

It's important to note that physical activity does not need to be done all at once. Most people find it beneficial if they break their time up over the course of the day. Doing exercise in chunks forces us to get up and move more often during the day and reduces the amount of time we spend sitting.

So what types of physical activity seem to be the most popular with older adults? Swimming, walking, exercise cycling (stationary), ballroom dancing, water aerobics, tai chi, gentle yoga, aerobic and strength classes geared towards seniors, and group sports such as tennis and pickleball (a cross between badminton, tennis and ping-pong).

If you are not sure how to get started, consulting with a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or personal trainer are all great places to begin. They can help assess your current level of fitness and design a custom exercise plan to fit your individual needs.


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