Seniors and exercise

Seniors and Exercise

There are many misconceptions and myths about ageing and exercise. Many seniors over 65 years of age think they need to slow down and not overdo it. They feel that they may hurt themselves and therefore significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of exercise. It is thought that only one in ten Australians over the age of 50 years exercise enough to have a cardiovascular effect (that is, get fit!). Many people believe that their physical decline is due to ageing, however it is thought that the decline is due to the decrease or lack of exercise.


With age, it has been shown that the amount and size of muscle fibres decrease. It is thought that the body loses 3kg of lean muscle every decade after middle age. The type of muscle mostly affected are the “fast twitch” fibres, they are muscles that provide strength and speed. It is thought that these changes are reversible with exercise. Exercise needs to be regular and intense enough so muscles change. “How intense?” is a common question we are asked. For muscles to respond to exercise it needs to be placed under pressure. For example, if you are doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions, the last 10 repetitions should be quite difficult to complete. If the last 10 repetitions are too easy , your muscles are not stressed enough for them to adapt and therefore they will not strengthen. Once you have determined the appropriate weight continue with this weight for a few more weeks and then only increase by a maximum of 10% every few weeks.

Make sure your technique is good and try and exercise in front of a mirror to ensure proper technique. If you prefer to workout in a group there are many classes available in the Manningham area. Some links that may be of interest:

Bones and Joints

As we age our bone density may decline. There are many studies that show loss of bone density may not be reversible however many studies show that exercise may halt or slow down the loss of bone. The type of exercise that is most effective for bone health is weight bearing and resistive exercise. For example, walking, jumping, jogging and weight work either using hand weights or resistive band. The bones have to be under some pressure so that they respond by becoming stronger (that is, more dense).

Joints may also stiffen, as we get older. Joints need to be moved to maintain their range of movement. This means moving the joint to its end of range. For example, the shoulder needs to move all the way up above your head both forwards and out to the side and down and behind your back.

Joints have capsules that surround the joint and keep the (synovial) fluid inside. This fluid provides nutrition to the joint cartilage. It is thought that moving the joint flushes the fluid around getting rid of waste and providing nutrition to the cartilage and surrounding soft tissue.

Heart and Lungs

Cardiovascular fitness, regardless of age can be improved with regular exercise. Examples of fitness type exercise include walking, cycling and swimming. It is recommended that you exercise at a moderate intensity, meaning 70% of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age).

Remember, exercise does not have to be gruelling, painful or  a from of punishment. We are not talking marathons. Try doing some incidental exercise like parking further away from your destination and walking, taking stairs instead of lifts, going for a walk with a group of friends and catching up.

The recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes per day. This is not a lot. Get up earlier in the morning and go for a half hour walk before your day begins. This is easier now it’s lighter and warmer, you beat the harsh sun and you’re less likely to be waylaid by other activities. If you really have to, walk 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

Look at classes, dancing, aerobics (that’s showing my age!! I don’t think they’re called that anymore!). The previous links mentioned may give you some ideas.

Balancing Exercises

Falls prevention is an important factor when looking at an exercise program. Injuries arising from falls can be severe and so if we can prevent them that’s much better than curing them. Exercises that strengthen your major muscle groups in your legs (thighs, calves and gluteals) will help with stability and speed of reflexes. The exercises you can find here include these types of exercises. There are many more, so if you would like a more extensive list, make an appointment and we can go through them with you. Balancing exercises will also improve balance (makes sense hey?). That is why we encourage Tai Chi as this addresses strength and balance.

Lena Juross

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