2011-07-01 / Fitness

Exercise for the ages

Ready to get moving again? Engaging in age-appropriate exercise presents a clear path to success.
By Jeff Schnaufer
CTW Features


The Nattiionall IInsttiittutte on Agiing has some excellllentt iinfforrmattiion on exerrciise and ollderr peoplle avaiillablle iin ttheiirr publliicattiion,, Exerrciise and Physiicall Acttiiviitty:: Yourr Everryday Guiide ffrrom tthe Nattiionall IInsttiittutte on Agiing.. IItt’’s avaiillablle att no charrge ffrrom tthe websiitte — httttp::////www..niia..niih..gov//HealltthIInfforrmattiion// Publliicattiions//ExerrciiseGuiide// — iin Englliish and iin Spaniish.. Allso consiiderr ttheiirr Go4Liiffe websiitte:: httttp::////go4lliiffe..niiapublliicattiions..orrg.. The Nattiionall IInsttiittutte on Agiing has some excellllentt iinfforrmattiion on exerrciise and ollderr peoplle avaiillablle iin ttheiirr publliicattiion,, Exerrciise and Physiicall Acttiiviitty:: Yourr Everryday Guiide ffrrom tthe Nattiionall IInsttiittutte on Agiing.. IItt’’s avaiillablle att no charrge ffrrom tthe websiitte — httttp::////www..niia..niih..gov//HealltthIInfforrmattiion// Publliicattiions//ExerrciiseGuiide// — iin Englliish and iin Spaniish.. Allso consiiderr ttheiirr Go4Liiffe websiitte:: httttp::////go4lliiffe..niiapublliicattiions..orrg.. By the time you reach 80 years old, Colin Milner says about half of us will not be able to walk a quarter of a mile.

“As you get older, you need to train for the quarter mile,” says Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging,Vancouver, B.C.“Research shows that those who were able to accomplish the quarter mile walk by the time they were 80 had six years less of disability. That’s a big deal.”

So should everyone be training for a quarter mile today? Not necessarily. In fact, the National Institute on Aging does not have any specific recommendations by age group for exercises because age isn’t necessarily the deciding factor in how much or how long someone can or should exercise.

“You could be 50 and function like a 70 year old or 50 and function like a 30 year old,” says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at Quincy College, Mass., who has co-authored several books, including “Strength Training Past 50” (Human Kinetics, 2007).

“The fitness program should be based on ability or chronic condition rather than age,” says Karl Knopf, Ed.D., of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, whose books include “Stretching For 50+ :A Customized Program for Increasing Flexibility,Avoiding Injury and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle” (Ulysses Press, 2005).

Still, there are common, shared physiological changes that occur as we age — such as lack of flexibility and muscle loss. Certain types of exercise, experts say, may be beneficial to enjoying a better lifestyle as we age. Here is a glance at these changes and some exercises that may help.As always, consult a doctor and/or fitness professional before beginning an exercise program.

50s

“It’s probably the most difficult decade,”Westcott says.“It’s a huge change in terms of muscle loss and bone loss and estrogen and testosterone. Men and women will lose about a pound of muscle a year.They most need strength training or resistance exercise to not lose muscle mass.The American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org) recommends eight to 10 exercises that work most of major muscle groups, including leg press, chest press, pull down, shoulder press, a low back extension and an ab curl.They should use a weight that they could do eight times minimally. Once they get to 12 they raise their weight. Do it two to three days a week.”

For people in their 50s and 60s,“the focus should be on health issues such as how can exercise make them healthier to reduce the incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.,” Knopf says.

60s

Loss of flexibility increases in our 60s,Westcott says. Our backs may start tightening up or it becomes harder to turn our head while we back up our car.Women begin having more shoulder problems.“Add a more significant portion of time to staying limber, especially in hamstrings and shoulders,”Westcott says.After you have warmed up a little bit, perhaps on a stationary bike or walk, try a series of static stretches.“Move into a stretch position and hold that position for 15 to 20 seconds.Then move into a further stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Try a figure 4 or a letterT stretch. About a minute and a half per stretch. Five to seven minutes total.”

70s

“Ambulation becomes an important issue, such as walking down stairs, getting out of cars,”Westcott says.“In addition to a weight bearing exercise and stretching, I would suggest some kind of a walking program. Get on a treadmill or take a walk. Be able to walk on hills. Minimally 20 minutes, maximum 40 minutes.”A word of warning:“If they go too long, they burn out all together and stop doing it.”

For people in their 70s and 80s, Knopf says the“focus should be on function — how exercise can help them in activities of daily living such as mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, etc. Keeping the leg muscles strong is the key to independence, plus maintaining muscle strength will help prevent becoming frail.”

80s

Pay attention to the lower back,Westcott says. In addition to previous exercises,Westcott says you should consider special exercises for the lumbar spine, lower back and upper back. Find an exercise or exercise machine that works out your abdominal and lower back areas in order to maintain a strong midsection/core musculature.

No matter what your age, experts say one of the greatest obstacles to exercising is just getting started.

“Many older adults who have a chronic health issue such as pain or dysfunction are afraid if they start they will hurt themselves,” Knopf says.“It is always wise to have a health professional advise the client of what they need to be careful about. In most cases, if a person starts out very slowly and listens to their body, they will do not harm.The key is to start at 5-10 minutes and see how their body feels and they either progress or re-assess. It’s never too late to start.”

Milner suggests asking yourself where you want your body to take you in your golden years.

“From an exercise stance, it may be you want to be healthy enough at age 70 to travel. If you’re not fit, you’re going to have a lot of trouble with the Great Wall of China.”

© CTW Features

Return to top