by Sarah MacKenzie, PT
Physical activity is an important part of health and well-being at all stages of your life and it becomes even more important the older you get. The benefits of physical activity at any age includes prevention of chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes (1), just to name a few. There is also evidence to suggest physical activity improves mental health and has been found to reduce anxiety and rates of depression (2). These are only two of the many benefits physical activity has for people of all ages.
The importance of physical activity as we get older has even larger effects on our overall well-being. The recommended amount of exercise for people over the age of 65 years old, recommended by the World Health Organization, includes 150 minutes of aerobic activity at an intensity that is considered moderate. This may include 30 minutes of walking at a brick pace 5 days a week or 15 minutes of walking 2 times a day 5 days a week. They also recommend 2 days a week of strengthening exercises for the upper and lower body. The third recommendation is to incorporate balance training exercises with the aim of preventing falls (3).
Types of Aerobic Exercise
Walking: Walking is a form of physical activity that provides many health benefits and can be done in a variety of different settings. The health benefits of walking include strengthening your bones, body weight management, and strengthening muscles of the lower body. This type of exercise can be done around your neighborhood, around a track at your local gym, or can even be down in the hallways of your own home. Walking outdoors in particular also provides the cognitive benefits of being in nature, which may help to improve your mood and reduce anxiety and depression (4).
Biking: Whether you are biking on a stationary bike or one that is used on the trails outside, biking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. This form of exercise is a non-weight bearing form of physical activity which may be more comfortable for people living with osteoarthritis in their knees and hips. Similar to walking, this form of exercise is accessible indoors, as well as outdoors and is a fun and enjoyable way to explore your neighborhood or local trail system.
Swimming: This form of aerobic exercise is another form of non-weight bearing exercise that is a little more unique that the two mentioned above, however is just as enjoyable. Swimming can help to improve your endurance and also helps to offload painful joints due to the anti-gravity properties of water. Joining a swimming class may be a good introduction to learning new skills while meeting new people who share a common interest in the sport.
Types of Strengthening exercises
The following are a few examples of exercises that focus on building strength in a functional way.
Sit to stand:
Marching on the Spot:
Seated knee extensions:
Types of Balance exercises
The following are a few exercises that help to improve your balance and may help reduce your risk of falling. It is recommended to start these exercises using a counter top or a sturdy chair to hold on to, if needed.
Feet together (narrow base of support):
Single leg balance:
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- Guszkowska M.. Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood [in Polish] Psychiatr Pol. 2004;38:611–620.