By Corey Donohoo
Beaumont Centre Family YMCA
I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve had a friend, family member, or doctor mention to you how great exercise can be for your health. They may have told you how exercise can help decrease your risk for all sorts of diseases or recover from an injury or illness. One thing I would guess that they didn’t tell you is what type of exercise you should be doing, and how often you should do it.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is often the go-to organization for health and fitness professionals when it comes to these sorts of questions. I know what you are saying, “I’m not interested in sports, why should I listen to them?” The truth is they do lots of great research about exercise and related topics for all different types of people, not just athletes.
For instance, the ACSM has established recommendations for physical activity in healthy older adults (those 65 years and older). For aerobic activity, they recommend 30-60 minutes per day, 5 days per week. This includes exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, or other activities that increase your heart rate. Those who are able to work at a higher intensity may be able to cut their workouts shorter and do them less frequently (20-30 minutes; 3-4 days per week).
The benefits of aerobic exercise are well documented. Just like younger adults, older adults can greatly increase their cardiovascular endurance by sticking to the recommendations above.
Strength exercises are just as important when it comes to overall health. However, many people are timid when it comes to using weights. The ACSM recommends participating in strengthening activity as least twice each week. Between 8-10 exercises each done 10-15 times should do the trick as long as each major muscle group is incorporated. Machines and weights aren’t always necessary for building strength; the weight of your body can often be a great tool as well. If you are unsure about what exercises you should be doing or the proper technique, consult at a professional at a nearby fitness facility.
Adding strength training into your routine can not only help to build muscle strength, but also muscle endurance as well as increase bone density, which can combat osteoporosis.
The aspect of exercise that is occasionally neglected is flexibility. The recommendations are to perform stretching twice each week for each major muscle group. This is important for keeping a healthy range of motion throughout joints that will help to perform daily tasks.
Please remember that these are only the recommendations for a healthy older adult. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan. Keep moving!
Corey Donohoo has been the Health Well-being Director at the Beaumont Centre Family YMCA in Lexington for just over a year. His duties include working with older adults as well as health and well-being initiatives for those with chronic health concerns or those new to exercise. Corey is a 2010 graduate from the University of Kentucky with a degree in biology.