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Exercise and Older Adults

The importance of exercise for older adults has become more and more apparent, with continuing research being published outlining the benefits of exercise for the elderly population. Structural, physiological and functional decline occurs naturally with age. Add chronic illness or injury to the mix and the detriment to the physical, mental and social-well being of an older adult increases dramatically.

Declines in aerobic fitness (VO2max), and skeletal muscle mass (muscle atrophy) further impact one’s quality of life and level of independence (Proctor et al. 2009, Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adult). Falls Prevention and Exercise also explains that falling is another major risk for older adults, being the leading cause of injury-related death and hospitalisation. (Exercise is Medicine Fact Sheet, Falls Prevention and Exercise 2014).

ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), the global leader in sports medicine and exercise, suggests that older adults engage in:

  • Aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity, including walking, cycling, and water-based exercise for a minimum 5 times a week for 30 minutes. This may be broken up into 10 minute bouts if necessary. (ACSM, Eighth Edition 2010).  
  • Resistance-based exercise for a minimum of 2 days per week, focusing on major muscle groups, using handheld weights, therabands and medicine balls. Core exercises should also be included in these sessions, to improve stability and reduce severity of lower back pain. (ACSM, Eighth Edition 2010).  
  • Flexibility and stretching on a minimum of 2 days per week, using sustained stretches, and avoiding ballistic movements (ACSM, Eighth Edition 2010).

Evidently, the inclusion of exercise is paramount for the elderly population, specifically reducing the rate of physical and mental degeneration. As there are many factors to consider when beginning a new exercise regime, it is recommended that all older contacts visit their local GP for a general health check up before commencing a safe and effective exercise program needs with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

By Adrian Meli (AEP, ESSAM)
Bee Active Personal Training – Concord


Proctor, D. N., Singh, M. A. F., Salem, G. J., & Skinner, J. S. (2009). POSITION STAND.

Exercise is Medicine Australia, (2014). Falls Prevention and Exercise

Thompson, W.R., Gordon, N. F., & Pescatello, L. S. (2010). ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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