The American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommend exercise for all ages, including adults over age 65 years and adults 50 – 65 years with chronic medical problems. In recommending exercise there are four categories:
- Aerobic exercise
- Muscle strengthening
Aerobic exercise – by definition this type of exercise involves the use of large muscle groups and must be sustained for a minimum of 10 minutes at a time. Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, golf (walking), dancing, and using gym exercise equipment (treadmill, stair stepper, stationary bike). Guidelines by the above associations recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week. Please be aware – this is the minimum recommended.
How do I determine the intensity of effort that’s right for me?
Intensity of effort can be graded on a 0-10 scale with zero being no activity and would include sitting or lying down and ten being all-out intensity which would include sprinting. For almost all of us, neither zero nor ten are exercise efforts that are appealing or healthy.
Vigorous intensity effort includes those activities that cause a large increase in heart rate and breathing. This level of intensity is more suited to healthy adults under the age of 50 years who are physically fit and exercise above the minimum regularly.
Most of us will fall into the category of expending moderate or light intensity effort. Moderate intensity effort is defined as those activities that require a moderate increase in heart rate and breathing. An example of this is brisk walking (approximately 2-3 miles/hr) when one can walk and talk at the same time. Light intensity effort is an activity that does not significantly raise the heart rate and breathing as with walking slowly and frequently stopping to rest.
Depending upon one’s baseline level of fitness, it may be appropriate to begin with light intensity effort and slowly increase as tolerated to a more moderate intensity effort. People with chronic disabling conditions may not be able to attain the minimum recommended amount of physical activity, but should be as physically active as possible. Even exercising below the recommended guideline can provide individual benefits which may include slowed disease progression.
Aerobic activities do not need to be performed all at once. The recommended 30 minutes a day can be split into three 10 minute sessions without reducing the beneficial effect.
Exercising with a friend or partner not only will help both individuals stay motivated, but it is a great way to stay connected with loved ones.