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Exercise Management for Older Adults

Don’t let chronic illness get in the way of practicing healthy behaviors
Exercise Management for Older Adults

Making time for exercise is no easy matter.  We’re all occupied with our daily routines, countless activities, and projects that force us to put exercise on the back burner. 

But like anything else, those things that take hard work and commitment show the greatest results.  Yes, I’m talking about exercise. 

It’s one of the things you just have to make a commitment to doing and stick with it.  For individuals with a chronic medical condition, exercise is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.  Just like taking your prescribed medications or sticking to a diet, exercise requires the same degree of commitment.

At your next medical appointment with your health care provider, don’t wait for him or her to bring up the issue.  Start the discussion. Ask if an exercise program is right for you. 

You’re probably going to be told to start out slowly. We’re not necessarily expecting older adults to train for a marathon; activities as simple as walking the dog, taking a dance or exercise class, or biking to the store can increase mobility, prevent chronic conditions and diseases, and generally make life much more enjoyable. 

Healthy habits like exercise can be a lot more fun if you are part of a small group. Exercise with a buddy and make it a regular thing. 

Exercise for healthy aging should include a combination of aerobic, balance, strength and flexibility exercises.  A combination of regular aerobic and strength training exercises is more effective at combating the effects of the aging process than either form of training alone. Older adults with a chronic medical condition should seek a gym or class where the instructor has experience with older clients.   

Individuals who are at risk for falling or mobility impairment should also perform specific exercises to improve balance.  Your personal trainer or exercise instructor will be able to guide you. 

There is also evidence that exercise provides psychological benefits for older adults, including lower risks of dementia, and helps improve activities of daily living. 

So just how much exercise are we talking about?  Although some health benefits seem to begin with as little as 60 minutes of exercise a week, research shows that a total amount of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, consistently reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. 

Exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive treatments for chronic illness and can be fun to boot. Trust me and give it a try. 

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Evelyn O'Neill's picture

About the Blogger

Project Director / Program Manager STEP-HI Study, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research

Evelyn O’Neill is the Project Director / Program Manager STEP-HI Study at HSL's Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research. With a BS in Education and 30 years of long-term care experience working with frail elders, she has been working at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the last 25 years. She has been the lead interventionist on all of the landmark exercise trials carried out by Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh and colleges at HRC, including the NIH-funded multi-center exercise trials FICSIT, ROYBAL, and HEAL. She was part of the team that developed the Fit For Your Life...

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Hi Lois, that's wonderful! Tai Chi is a commonly recommended form of exercise for those looking to work on balance. Do make sure you and your husband consult with your primary care physician/s before beginning any new exercise routine. -- Erica, Hebrew SeniorLife Social Media Team

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