Just like the young, older people can gain many benefits from exercising. Life can be made a lot easier through improvements in strength, balance, coordination, and mobility. If the person has not exercised for a while, they must start slow. Even walking 10 minutes per day will give them great benefits.Weight training is also a great option. Start them on a 20 minute program (3-4 exercises), and increase them from there as they adapt. Keep sets at 2-3, reps at 10-15, and the rest interval between sets at 90 seconds.

The facts:

  • Improvements in fitness and oxygen consumption with training are similar for younger or older men and women. Though, an older person will generally start at a lower level and peak at a lower level than a younger person.
  • Older subjects show greater gains in muscle oxidative enzyme activities.
  • Aging appears neither to impair the ability to improve muscle strength nor prevent muscle growth.
  • Exercise can help arthritic patients by increasing strength and mobility.Older people who exercise have:
  • Higher VO2max values and half the expected decrease in VO2max due to age
  • Higher HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol
  • Enhanced glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity
  • Greater strength, reaction time, and a lower risk of falling
  • Increased bone density (reduced chance of osteoporosis)


  • Always get a medical examination and clearance before starting an exercise program.
  • All equipment should be safe and inspected regularly for defects.
  • Training equipment should be located in an uncrowded area.
  • There must be adequate supervision by an experienced and registered trainer to ensure correct technique is used.
  • Programs should start with regular stretching and strengthening exercises, with a progression to more dynamic aerobic activities. Cycling and swimming are recommended over jogging.
  • Older people are generally less tolerant of environmental stress so restrict training in extreme temperatures.
  • Until they are experienced in weight training, only use exercises that require them to keep both feet on the ground (e.g. Squats instead of Lunges). This will reduce their risk of falling and injuring themselves.
  • Ensure all abdominal work is done on the floor and not on the Swiss Ball.Only light lifting should be done above the head.
  • No isometric exercises.
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 Psychological Benefits of Exercise for the Elderly

Whilst the physical benefits of exercise are quite obvious, the psychological benefits aren’t as commonly known. Many studies have shown that older exercisers get great benefits out of the interaction with others their age, and many people see a marked increase in self-esteem.

But it goes much further than that. Quite a lot of these people enjoy the different environment and discussion that goes along with it. Many older people have never been to a fitness centre or participated in a diet program because they led an active lifestyle and ate fresh, healthy foods (unlike us younger folk!), so this is all quite new to them!  

What is the role of physical activity and exercise in obesity?

The National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES I) showed that people who engage in limited recreational activity were more likely to gain weight than more active people. Other studies have shown that people who engage in regular strenuous activity gain less weight than sedentary people.

Physical activity and exercise help burn calories. The amount of calories burned depends on the type, duration, and intensity of the activity. It also depends on the weight of the person. A 200-pound person will burn more calories running 1 mile than a 120-pound person, because the work of carrying those extra 80 pounds must be factored in. But exercise as a treatment for obesity is most effective when combined with a diet and weight-loss program. Exercise alone without dietary changes will have a limited effect on weight because one has to exercise a lot to simply lose one pound.  

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Other benefits of exercise include:

       Improved blood sugar control and increased insulin sensitivity (decreased insulin resistance)

       Reduced triglyceride levels and increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels

       Lowered blood pressure

       A reduction in abdominal fat

       Reduced risk of heart disease.

Remember, these health benefits can occur independently (with or without) achieving weight loss. Before starting an exercise program, you should talk to your doctor about the type and intensity of the exercise program.

General exercise recommendations:

       20-30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 to 7 days a week, preferably daily. Types of exercise include walking, stationary bicycling, walking or jogging on a treadmill, stair climbing machines, jogging, and swimming.

       Exercise can be broken up into smaller 10-minute sessions.

       Start slowly and progress gradually to avoid injury, excessive soreness, or fatigue. Over time, build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.

       People are never too old to start exercising. Even frail, elderly individuals (ages 70-90 years) can improve their strength and balance.

Exercise precautions:

The following people should consult a doctor before vigorous exercise:

       Men over age 40 or women over age 50.

       Individuals with heart or lung disease, asthma, arthritis, or osteoporosis.

       Individuals who experience chest pressure or pain with exertion, or who develop fatigue or shortness of breath easily.

       Individuals with conditions or lifestyle factors that increase their risk of developing coronary heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol, or having family members with early onset heart attacks and coronary heart disease.