Keeping Active - Advice for the Older Person

Category: Healthy Ageing
Healthy Ageing

Why exercise?

Being active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at all ages. Older people that take part in regular exercise enjoy many health benefits. Exercise can improve mood, self-esteem and overall mental health. Exercise helps maintain muscle strength so you can continue to perform everyday tasks, help manage your weight, improve heart and lung health and keep your joints healthy. Physical activity can also improve balance and co-ordination which may reduce your risk of falling or tripping over. Not doing any exercise can be unhealthy no matter what age you are.

TOP TIP!       Any amount of physical activity is better than none at all. The more  active you are, the greater the benefits to your health.

If you are over 65 years of age, are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions, the guidelines below are for you:

  • Try to be active every day
  • Aim for a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes (150mins) of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week
  • You could break this down to 30 minutes of exercise on 5 days of the week
  • Start with 10 minutes activity per day and build this up gradually until you are comfortable doing 30 minutes or more per day
  • If you are already quite physically active, try to introduce some vigorous physical activity each week
  • Older adults should also include some muscle strengthening exercise on two or more days per week

Types of physical activity

Physical activity comes in many shapes and forms. A combination of moderate, vigorous and muscle-strengthening exercise is a great recipe for fitness into older age.

Moderate intensity exercise should cause you to get a bit warm, breathe harder and increase your heart rate. You should still be able to hold a conversation while doing moderate intensity exercise, so you can have a chat while improving your health!

Vigorous intensity exercise will cause your heart rate to increase and your breathing to be even harder so that you can only say a few words before you need to catch your breath.

Muscle strengthening exercise helps to strengthen muscles and reduce muscle loss as you get older. This type of exercise should involve all the major muscle groups. To get most benefit from these exercises, do them to the point where it’s hard for you to do it once more without assistance.

Take a look below for some examples of each type of exercise:

Moderate intensity Vigorous intensity Muscle-strengthening
Brisk walking Climbing stairs Carrying or moving heavy things
Ballroom dancing Energetic dancing Chair aerobics
Cycling on flat surface with some hills Cycling fast or on hills Stepping or jumping activities
Pushing a lawn mower Singles' tennis Lifting weights
Water aerobics Aerobics Heavy gardening
Swimming Swimming fast Yoga
Hiking Football, jogging and running Resistance exercises

Getting started...small steps

  • Reduce how much TV you watch
  • Take regular short breaks to walk around the house, garden or up and down the street
  • Break up a long car or journey by stopping to stretch your legs for a few minutes
  • Turn exercise into a social event! Invite a friend or family member to exercise with you.
  • Think about the physical activity you do already such as gardening, walking to the shops or even playing with grandchildren. This all contributes to your weekly physical activity. Next time, increase the intensity at which you do these tasks.
  • Think of all the activities you enjoyed when you were younger but have given up. It's never too late to put on your dancing shoes or dust off your tennis racket!
  • Start small and aim high. Improving your fitness is a gradual process.

TOP TIP! Check with your GP or health care professional before starting a new exercise plan. If you feel unwell or experience any pain during exercise stop immediately and seek advice from your GP or health care professional.

Useful Links 

Updated by Ciara Murphy, MINDI July 2016

Review date: May 2019

© 2016 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

Printer friendly PDF: pdfKeeping_Active_-_Advice_for_the_Older_Person.pdf

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