Insightsthe blog of Porter Hills
Physical Activity Guidelines for Seniors: the Four Fitness Factors
Kristi Schneider, PT, DPT, GCS
Watch the WZZM Senior Wellness Segment on this topic.
For people of all ages, physical activity is important for a maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For older adults, physical activity plays a role in preventing:
- chronic disease
- maintaining functional status
- preserving physical independence.
Physical activity is essential to maintaining health and function with aging, yet a low proportion of older adults, less than 27%, meet the recommended guidelines. Physical inactivity accelerates the risk of functional decline and is the strongest predictor of physical disability.
Reported benefits of physical activity include:
- optimal flexibility and posture;
- improved endurance;
- improved balance;
- reduced risk of falls and fall related injury;
- improved attention, concentration and memory;
- reduced depression and anxiety;
- as well as improved sleep quality.
The key to optimal physical fitness for the older adult is variety. Physical activity that targets flexibility, strength, aerobic and balance performance is most beneficial.
Flexibility optimizes range of motion and minimizes stiffness. Flexibility enhances posture and balance performance. Flexibility is achieved through stretching.
- The older adult should perform stretching activities for 10 minutes 3-4x week,
- Targeting key body areas: the chest, the shoulders and elbows, the back of the thighs and knees, the calves, the front of the wrists and palms, and the low back and neck.
Aerobic exercise works the heart and lungs, helps the body burn calories and improves endurance.
- The older adult should perform 150 minutes of moderately paced aerobic exercise a week. Ten to fifteen minutes of aerobic activity performed cumulatively throughout the course of a day/week is effective.
- Examples of aerobic physical activity include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, water aerobics, chair aerobics and biking.
Strengthening muscles helps maintain functional ability and independence.
- The older adult should perform strength training 2-3x week, allowing muscle groups a day of rest between sessions.
- Strengthening exercise involves resistance training with weights, bands, body weight or machines. Stair climbing and rising from a seated position to standing are functional strengthening tools.
- Muscle groups to target include: the core (abdominals/back), the thighs, the buttocks, the lower leg and the back of the arms.
Balance and coordination training challenges the body’s postural control and sensory systems.
- Older adults should participate in balance training 2-3 x week.
- Training activities can involve shifting body weight; reaching with the arms; turning the head and trunk; moving from 2 legs to 1 leg; walking with direction changes forward, backwards, and sideways; challenging the body’s base of support and performing dynamic movements that perturb the body’s center of gravity.
Whether you are working to enhance your current fitness program or simply aiming to increase your physical activity level, consider the four fitness factors: flexibility, aerobic, strength and balance training to optimize the benefits of your effort. Incorporating physical activity at any level into your daily routine can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor.
Tips to consider when starting a new physical activity or exercise program:
- Consult with your physician for special health considerations as you begin any new fitness routine.
- Find an exercise program or physical activity that is fun, accessible and sustainable. Establishing fitness as part of an ongoing daily routine is the key to optimal health benefits.
- Challenge yourself to try something new and seek a variety of exercise. Learning new movement pattern is great for your body and your brain.
- To compliment your fitness routine, eat healthy and stay hydrated.
About LifeCircles PACE
All LifeCircles participants meet a level of care that qualifies them to live in long term care Skilled Nursing Center; however, with community and PACE supports, they are able to live safely in the community. To learn more about LifeCircles PACE, A Porter Hills Partnership, please visit on the web at www.lifecircles-pace.org or you can call our Holland location at 616-582-3100 or Muskegon at 231-733-8686
Chodzko-Zajko, W. et al. Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2009; 41 (7)1510-1530.