Essentials about seniors and exercise

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Essentials about seniors and exercise

Posted on April 26, 2010

For most people, exercise is not a senior thing; not many people picture grandma on a treadmill, a 97 year old doing Tai Chi or a retirement community doing hula hoop competitions

In some way, it is true that aging includes changes that affect performance such as:


  • Strength: Older adults often see loss of muscle, strength and quality of tissue. Some experts have suggested that muscle mass declines about 1% each year from age 30.
  • Endurance: As people age, aerobic fitness is lost and experts believe this often contributes to reduced mobility in daily life.
  • Flexibility: Joints change with age and this can lead to stiffness, decreased range of motion and more injuries
  • Balance: Each year, hospitals see thousands of older patients for broken hips due to falling. Balance exercises can help avoid injuries from falls and keep people independent and mobile.

The good news is that the National Institute on Aging believes that, “when older people lose their ability to do things on their own, it doesn’t happen just because they have aged. More likely it is because they have become inactive.”

When done on a regular basis, exercise and physical activity offer many health benefits and can be a pleasure, especially if done through enjoyable activities. “Numerous studies have shown that regular exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing certain diseases and disabilities that can occur as people grow older,” says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA, which developed the exercise and physical activity topic. “In some cases, exercise can help manage and prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.” Exercise also helps improve balance and helps people maintain their independence.

Older Americans are increasingly turning to the Internet for health information. In fact, more than 70 percent of online seniors look for health and medical information when they go on the Web. NIHSeniorHealth, recently updated their Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults section.

The great aspect of this resource is the way it presents safety, general information and advice for beginners or more experienced seniors.
It is also a fantastic guide for activity and life enrichment staff to build age appropriate programs centered around the body. It is also a great resource to learn about age related risks when exercising and how to deal with them.

For more information, please contact the NIA at:
Stephanie Dailey, NIA