Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle for all ages from young to old. As we age, exercise is still very important for good health. Benefits of exercise for an older person include the following:[1]

  • Maintenance of healthy weight
  • Improved blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improved quality of sleep, cognition and decreased depression
  • Reduced falls risk
  • Improved strength, flexibility and bone strength
  • Improved functional ability (including walking, stair climbing and activity participation)

With increased age the benefits of exercise can slow or stop some of the normal processes that occur as we age. Changes that happen as we age can include the following:[2]

  • Reduced muscle bulk
  • Increased body fat
  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Reduced bone density
  • Reduced cardiovascular endurance
  • Reduced balance
  • Reduced flexibility

These changes can be altered with exercise! There are guidelines and recommendations for exercise. It is recommended that strength training is completed 3 days a week.[3] Strength training can increase your muscle strength and bone density, reducing the likelihood of osteoporosis and fractures. Endurance exercise is recommended to be completed 3-5 times a week for 30-60min sessions of Moderate exercise.[4] Moderate exercise can include: walking, dancing, swimming or water exercise, cycling and gardening.

Your physical therapist can help you to establish a safe exercise program to help you to attain your fitness goals. It is especially important to consult your physical therapist if you have had any hospitalizations, changes in medical conditions (including falls, strokes, CHF, etc). It may be recommended that you see your medical doctor prior to starting physical therapy.

[1] Neid RJ, Franklin B. Promoting and prescribing exercise for the elderly. Am Fam Physician.2002;65(3):419-427.

[2] Guiccione AA, Wong RA,Avers D. Geriatric Physical Therapy. 3rd ed.St Louis, MO:Elsevier Mosby; 2012.

[3] CDC.Growing stronger-strength training for older adults. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/exercises/stage3.htm

[4] ACSM.ACSM’s Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription.8th ed.Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott,Williams &Wilkins;2010.