activity declines and sedentary behavior increases with age. Physical function,
mobility and the ability to perform activities of daily living also declines
with age. Regular physical activity can assist in reversing the age-related
decline in physical and psychological function.
Regular physical activity is one of the most important
things we can do for our 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 day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.
Keep in mind, not doing any physical activity can be bad for you, no matter your age
or health condition. Some physical activity is better than none at all.
recommended amount of exercise for older adults is the same as that for adults
aged 18 – 64 years — at least 150 min weekly (about 30 min 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity
physical activity. However, most older adults do not come close to meeting
these recommendations. An older adult’s motivation to participate in physical
activity depends on a variety of personal attitudes, appropriate opportunities
and broader environmental factors. There is also some evidence that older
adults are not motivated to take part in strength and balance activities as a
means of avoiding falls. Older adults will however undertake these activities
if they know these activities will help to maintain their independence and
allow them to remain engaged in activities that are integral to an active later
life. Therefore effectively motivating
the elderly to physical activity
are absolutely necessary.
Individual motivation to participate in physical
activity will depend on:
• a positive attitude to
• a belief in the benefits
of physical activity
• feelings of confidence,
success and achievement
• belief in one’s ability
to be active (self-efficacy)
• activities that are
consistent with personal goals, identity and lifestyle
• social support from
friends, colleagues and family.
The consequences of inaction and sedentary behaviour
Evidence indicates physical activity levels among
older adults 65+ years are low and sedentary behaviour increases with age. Many
older adults spend ten hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making
them the most sedentary population About half of the physical decline
associated with ageing may be due to a lack of physical activity. Without
regular exercise, people over the age of 50 years can experience a range of
health problems including:
muscle mass, strength and physical endurance
- Reduced bone strength
- Reduced coordination and
- Reduced joint
flexibility and mobility
- Reduced cardiovascular
and respiratory function
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased body fat
susceptibility to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression
- Increased risk of various diseases including cardiovascular,
metabolic disease and stroke.
Benefits of physical activity for older adults
Older adults can benefit
from regular physical activity. Physical activity need not be strenuous to
achieve health benefits. Older adults can obtain significant health
benefits with a moderate amount of physical activity, preferably daily. A
moderate amount of activity can be obtained in longer sessions of moderately
intense activities (such as walking) or in shorter sessions of more vigorous
activities (such as fast walking). Health benefits can be gained through
greater amounts of physical activity, either by increasing the duration,
intensity, or frequency. Because risk of injury increases at high levels of
physical activity, care should be taken not to engage in excessive amounts of
activity. Previously sedentary older adults
who begin physical activity programs should start with short intervals of
moderate physical activity (5–10
minutes) and gradually build up to the desired amount.
According to the
National Institute of Aging, exercise isn’t just for seniors in the younger age
range. People who are 80, 90 or older can also benefit greatly from physical
activity. Exercising regularly can help prevent or delay some diseases and
disabilities as people age. In some cases, it can improve health and
independence for older people who already have diseases and disabilities, if
it’s done on a long-term, regular basis.
Some of the many benefits of regular exercise for older people include:
- Bone – bone density begins to decline after the age of 40, but this
loss accelerates around the age of 50 years. As a result of this bone loss,
older people are more prone to bone fractures. Exercise may help to reduce
the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis and improve balance and
coordination, which can reduce the likelihood of falling. Weight-bearing
exercise, in particular, helps to keep bones healthy and strong.
- Muscle – the amount and size of muscle fibres decreases with age. Some
studies suggest that the average body loses around 3kg of lean muscle
every decade from middle age. The muscle fibres that seem to be most
affected are those of the ‘fast twitch’ (phasic) variety, which govern
strength and speedy contraction. There is evidence to suggest that these
changes are related to a sedentary lifestyle, rather than age. Muscle mass
can increase in the older person after regularly exercising for a
relatively short period of time.
- Joints – the joints of the body require regular movement to remain supple
and healthy. In particular, people with arthritis can benefit from aerobic
and strengthening exercise programs
and lungs – moderate intensity exercise is most
favourable: for example, exercising at about 70 per cent of the
individual’s maximum heart rate (220 beats per minute minus your age).
Studies show that cardiorespiratory fitness takes longer to achieve in an
older person than a young person, but the physical benefits are similar.
Regardless of age, people are able to improve their cardiorespiratory
fitness through regular exercise. Exercise is beneficial in reduces the
risk of dying from coronary heart disease and of developing high blood
- Body fat levels – carrying too much body fat has been associated with a range of
diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Regular exercise
burns kilojoules, increases muscle mass and speeds the metabolism.
Together, these physiological changes help an older person maintain an
appropriate weight for their height and build.
- Increase mental capacity - exercise increases blood flow
to all parts of your body, including your brain, and might promote cell
growth there. Exercise is beneficial in preventing dementia and
Alzheimer’s disease. Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression and
fosters improvements in mood and feelings of well-being
- Prevent disease - exercise may delay or prevent many diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease,
stroke, and others, and may reduce overall death and hospitalization rates,
according to the National Institute of Aging.
- Improve healing- injuries and wounds take longer to heal as people age. Regular
exercise by older adults may speed up the wound-healing process by as much as
- According to the American Academy of Family Physicians
almost all older people can benefit from additional physical activity. Regular
exercise protects from chronic disease, improves mood and lowers chances of