Recommended Amount of Weekly Physical Activity for Older Adults

by Fit After Fifty
Older man walking alone on the beach with clear skies

Aging isn’t an excuse to stop exercising. Just like the younger population, those 65 and older need to meet a recommended amount of weekly physical activity in order to stay healthy.

Recommended Weekly Exercise

Older adults’ weekly fitness plans should comprise two types of exercise: aerobic exercises and strength exercises. The quantity of these exercises can vary depending on how intensive they are.

Option 1: Moderate Aerobic Activity

The mildest fitness option entails 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as walking or biking. This can easily be broken up into five days of 30-minute activities. Two of those days should also include strength exercises that target the major muscle groups (arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips, and legs).

Option 2: Vigorous Aerobic Activity

For a quicker and more intensive workout, spend 75 minutes a week performing vigorous aerobic activities, such as playing tennis or running. Remember to dedicate two days to strengthening the major muscle groups.

Option 3: Moderate and Vigorous Aerobic Activity Combined

The third option includes both moderate and vigorous aerobic activity. Just keep in mind that two minutes of moderate activity generally equal one minute of vigorous activity. For instance, you might go on two 30-minute runs and one 30-minute walk to reach the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise.

Just like with the first two options, you’ll need to perform strength exercises that target the major muscles two days a week.

Exercises to Reduce Falls Risk

Older adults with poor balance, weak legs, certain medical conditions, or other factors that contribute to high risk of falls should incorporate activities that promote coordination and balance on two or more days a week. Dancing, yoga, and tai chi are excellent options.

Examples of Moderate Aerobic Activity

An aerobic activity is considered to require a moderate level of effort if it increases your heart rate, warms you up, and quickens your breath. If you can speak but not sing along to a song while performing an exercise, it’s probably a moderate activity.

For most older adults, the following tend to require a moderate level of effort:

  • Walking
  • Line and ballroom dancing
  • Water aerobics
  • Mowing the lawn with a push lawn mower
  • Bike riding (on mostly flat ground)
  • Volleyball
  • Canoeing
  • Doubles tennis

Many communities offer a variety of aerobics classes that seniors may benefit from as well.

While everyday tasks such as housework, cooking, and shopping are great ways to get off your feet, they do not get your heart rate up and thus don’t count toward your weekly exercise.

Examples of Vigorous Aerobic Activity

You’ll know that an activity is vigorous if you can only say a few words at a time while performing it. This level of activity should make you breathe rapidly.

Examples of vigorous aerobic activities include:

  • Running or jogging
  • Swimming quickly
  • Aerobics
  • Bike riding (quickly or on hills)
  • Soccer
  • Singles tennis
  • Martial arts
  • Dancing energetically
  • Uphill hiking

Evidence suggests that vigorous aerobic activity can be more beneficial to your health than the equivalent amount of moderate aerobic activity.

Examples of Strength Exercises

Performing everyday tasks, keeping bones strong, controlling blood pressure and sugar, and sustaining a healthy weight all require muscle strength. Exercises that will help you strengthen muscles include:

  • Sit-ups, push-ups, and other resistance exercises that utilize your body
  • Dancing and other activities that require jumping and stepping
  • Weightlifting
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Intensive gardening activities (digging, shovelling, etc.)
  • Transporting heavy objects, such as suitcases or groceries

For every muscle-strengthening activity, try to perform at least one set of 8 to 12 repetitions.

Safety First

Keep in mind that these recommendations are geared toward seniors who are already in good shape and have no mobility-limiting health conditions. Always talk to your doctor about your health before starting a new exercise regime, and perform exercises carefully and correctly to prevent injury.

Image via Pixabay

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