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Exercise and older Adults

By Brian Tolley, PT


Q: How important is it that we continue to exercise as we age?

A: It is important that we continue to exercise as we age.  Adults start losing more and more muscle mass on an annual basis starting around the age of 30.  Over the course of a long lifespan most men end up losing roughly 30% of their muscle mass.

Q: How do we maintain our strength and balance as we age?

A: To promote and maintain health, older adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two or more days of resistance training per week.  Adults aged 65+ that lift weights twice per week show a 46% lower mortality rate in comparison to those who do not. In multiple experiments, older people who start to lift weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness and metabolic health

Q: How do I start resistance training?

A: One good way is to start with body weight exercises.  Some examples of these are squats, lunges, push-ups (against the wall, on your knees, or on your toes), dips, shoulder presses (reaching your hands in the air or with water bottles), step-ups.

Q: How can I maintain or improve my balance as I age?

A: Simply going for a walk 3-5 times a week can go a long way to helping maintain balance. A daily 30-minute walk will help improve your endurance, balance and strength.  Balance exercises such as yoga or Tai chi can also improve or maintain physical function and reduce falls in older.  Activities such as working in a garden or mowing the lawn can also be beneficial.

While exercise is not a path to eternal youth, both resistance and aerobic activities help maintain and even improve the quality of life in older adults.  It is never too late to start.

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