Physical Activity for Older People: Benefits and Practical Tips

PROCare4Life project partners Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU) have written some practical tips for older adults to maintain healthy physical activity.

Whatever your age, it is never too late to be more active and enjoy the benefits of physical activity. Not only is physical activity fun, it also can help you socialize more, supports your mental health and improves your quality of life.

Even with a small amount of daily physical activity, you can reduce the risk for some health issues, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes Type 2
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart diseases
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis

As people age, they tend to lose some muscle mass, bone density, and tissue elasticity. Physical activity can help slow down these changes, help you to improve your overall health, and enjoy healthy and active aging.

How much PA do older people need?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends performing 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That means you should aim for 30 minutes every day. Moderate activity should make you feel a bit breathless, but you still would be able to hold a short conversation comfortably while exercising.

Remember you don’t have to do it all in one session, instead you can perform three bouts of 10 minutes, or two bouts of 15 minutes

What types of PA can older people do?

There are different types of physical activity that are important to include in your routine. These include:

Cardiovascular or cardio fitness activities:

Keeps your heart and lungs healthy.

Examples: brisk walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, aerobic classes, and household activities.

Strengthening activities:

Keep your muscles and bones strong, and helpful in increasing your bone density and reducing the risk of falls. Try to practice strength activities 2-3 times per week.

Examples: weight training, climbing stairs, lifting and carrying groceries, gardening.

Flexibility activities:

Helps you to move easily and smoothly. Try to do some flexibility or stretching exercises every day; you can do some stretching while watching TV or some dancing while listening to music.

Examples: yoga, dancing, stretching exercise

Balance activities:

Improve your balance and reduce the risk of falls

Examples: side leg raise, heel raises.

Safety tips for physical activity:

  1. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
  2. Start gradually, giving your body and mind time to adjust to the exercise routine.
  3. Avoid strenuous and vigorous activities.
  4. If you had/have some health issues or had a recent surgery, consult with your doctor or your physiotherapist before engaging in physical activity.
  5. Physical activity shouldn’t be painful, if you experience pain, dizziness, or severe increase in heart rate when you exercise, stop your activities and consult your doctor.

Other tips to keep you motivated to be physically active:

  1. Walking in fresh air and enjoying nature can alleviate your mood, and improves both your mind and body health.
  2. Try to do your activity with a friend, or try group activities.
  3. Start gradually.
  4. Keep a diary of your physical activities to track your progress.

This blog was written by Mona Ahmed and the team at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU).