Exercise guidelines for the elderly

consensus statement

All adults over the age of 40 need a medical clearance from their physician before commencing an exercise routine for the first time. If one has been exercising throughout their life, they may continue to do so with some decrease in intensity levels if so required. The focus of exercise in the elderly is more on building strength and muscle mass than on weight loss. Increasing muscle mass and strength is beneficial in allowing the older individual to continue to live as normal a life as possible without being dependent on others.

Recommended doses of aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises for men and women over 65 years of age are similar to those for healthy adult population. That is aerobic activity for about 30-45 minutes a day at a moderate intensity.
- Resistance training to improve strength and muscle mass needs to be incorporated on at least 2-3 days/week which should involve all the major muscle groups, one exercise per body part, 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions is recommended. The benefits of resistance training include preservation of muscle mass and prevention of age-related sarcopenia.
- Greater muscle strength and power enable the maintenance of function and prevention of disability, including a lower risk of falling. Balance training, along with activities to strengthen the muscles of the legs, back and core muscles is the best strategy to reduce falls and complications from falls. This also increases the chances of the elderly person staying independent throught his/her life which is essential for morale.
- Daily "activities" that involve moving around, climbing stairs, lifting, carrying, pushing, gardening, cleaning etc should be maintained as long as possible because they can also benefit muscle and bone health.
- In sedentary individuals, gradual escalation of physical activity is recommended, after pre-activity medical evaluation especially in those with chronic diseases, particularly CHD. All decisions regarding the initiation of exercise programs for the elderly should be taken in consultation with a physician.
- Sudden commencement of physical activity, especially wihtout medical clearance should be avoided in the elderly.

Exercises for persons with disabilities cannot be generalised. The exercise routine needs to be designed according to the disability encountered.

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