Physical Activity Is Important for Seniors

by MichelleR on June 21, 2010


I met a wonderful woman back a few months ago while on holiday in the gym.  As we chatted she told me she was 88 years old.  I cheered her on as she worked out using the treadmill then moving to the weights.  We discussed how important it is to keep up with exercise.  She believed that exercising enables her to travel, be engaged and continue to enjoy her life. 

Exercise is emerging as one of the key ways to starve off chronic diseases and, in general, help people stay healthier in old age. Next to maintaining a healthy weight, exercise in men was found to be the most important factor in warding off heart failure. And, physical activity was just as important for women, according to a Health Day report. 

Among men who exercised five or more times a week, 11 percent developed heart failure, compared with 14 percent of those who didn’t exercise, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A study of 27,000 women with an average age of 55 found that, over an 11-year period, those who exercised were 40 percent less likely to have a heart attack than women who were sedentary. This study was published last year in Circulation. 

“The most important organ in an older person’s body is their legs,” said Dr. Walter Bortz, 80, of Stanford University School of Medicine. “If your legs stay good, everything else takes care of itself. You don’t fall down and break your hip. Your heart stays good. You don’t get frail.” 

It’s never too late to start exercising, Bortz says. “Even people in their 70s still have a tremendous capacity to improve their strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity.” 

Bortz said seniors should strive for at least three 30-minute exercise sessions a week, though more is better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five sessions. This information fits nicely with our Get Mom Moving campaign. The program is filled with information on the importance of keeping seniors mentally, physically and spiritually active, and it offers activity cards with fun ideas to engage seniors in the process. Mention this study while networking and bring along a pack of activity cards to show the type of materials available to our CAREGivers, and ultimately, our senior clients.

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