How to Choose Exercise for the Elderly


People over 65 years of age represent the fastest growing group in the United States. This is attributable to many factors including advances in medicine and medical care of the elderly, as well as their adopting lifestyle behav­iors conducive to longer life.

The year 2000 census indicated that there were more than 51,000 centenarians (people 100 years old and older) and that more than 1,400 were super-centenarians (age 110 years or older). Notwithstanding this laudable achievement, the reality is that the elderly require more medical care than any other age group. On av­erage, the last few years of their lives are characterized by a medicated exis­tence, usually to combat more than one chronic disease. This presents an enormous challenge to the health care system and at the same time affords a great opportunity to educate all Amer­icans about the importance of practic­ing lifestyle behaviors that have the potential to prevent or delay diseases that become prominent later in life.

Studies have shown that physicians have the greatest influence on chang­ing the behaviors of the general pub­lic. But physicians are busy with their major responsibilities—diag­nosing and treating illness, as well as staying abreast of the rapidly occur­ring innovations in medicine. This is what they are trained to do. Education takes time and at this point is second­ary to diagnosis and treatment, but physicians should recognize that it would be time well spent, as they have considerable influence over patients’ behavior. Before this occurs on a na­tional scale, the medical community will have to adopt a different mindset.

So much evidence has accrued showing that the elderly benefit from exercise in much the same way as young people that it has become an article of faith. The elderly do need to be more cautious in their selection of activities and in their level of exercise intensity. And it goes without saying that the elderly should obtain medical clearance before em­barking on an exercise program. Be­cause exercise reduces the risk of developing most chronic diseases, and because the elderly are the main victims, it makes good sense for them to become more active. Although establishing the exercise habit early in life is best, it is never too late to start.

Walking is an excellent exercise for the elderly. As a low-impact activity, it carries a low risk, and it can be done almost anywhere, anytime, alone or with others, and all it costs is a good pair of walking shoes. Surveys show that it is the favorite type of exercise for elderly people, and it is the activity they are most likely to sustain. Walking five or six days per week should be supplemented with a light-to-moderate weight-training program.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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