The First Wealth is Health
What are the considerations as we age?
Everyone should exercise regularly throughout all stages of life. Regular physical activity helps to maintain independence and quality of life, reduces the risk of chronic diseases, and improves mood and mental health!
Children and Teens
Children ages 6 to 17 should be getting at least 1 hour (60 minutes) of physical activity every day through a combination of heart pumping (e.g. running, bike riding, swimming, tennis), muscle-strengthening (e.g. climbing, crawling, trampolining) and bone-strengthening (jumping on the ground, skipping, basketball/netball).
Over the age of 18, activity should be increased to either:
- 150 min of moderate-intensity exercise (30 min, 5 days) OR 75 min of vigorous exercise/wk plus strengthening.
- For even better health 300 min (approx. 45 per day) of moderate exercise or 150 min of vigorous exercise/wk plus muscle strengthening.
- For able people sitting should not exceed 60 minutes at any one time.
What is moderate versus vigorous exercise?
- Moderate-intensity exercise allows you to talk while exercising, but not be able to sing a song. If you were having a conversation, you may need a breath between your words.
- Vigorous exercise requires a large amount of effort. You will have a substantially higher heart rate and rapid breathing such that you can’t maintain a conversation.
Into the Ages
- Your body is strong and resilient.
- This is the time to build a foundation of fitness, develop exercise as a habit to support you into old age.
- Play sports with friends, go hiking or biking or rock climbing – ANYTHING!
- Maintain flexibility if you have it or start improving it now. Strength alone is not enough for good mobility.
- Aim to include muscle-strengthening exercises in your routine 2 to 3 days a week to continue to build on your bone density and muscle mass.
- Your body first starts to lose muscle and bone density because of age.
- If you haven’t already start challenging your strength & flexibility.
- For bone health, ensure weight-bearing activities are part of your routine: brisk walking, jogging, or land-based sport.
- Try new things to target different muscle groups. A different sport, different exercise class. If you’re a road runner try mountain trails.
- Mix upper and lower body strengths.
Just A Little More Exercise Adds Years to Life
Ekblom-Bak and her colleagues looked at more than 316,000 adults in Sweden, aged 18 to 74, whose heart-lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness was assessed between 1995 and 2015. The conclusion from this research indicated for each milliliter increase in fitness (measured by VO2 max) the risk of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke fell 2.8% to 3.2%. “It is particularly important to note that an increase in fitness was beneficial, regardless of the starting point,” Ekblom-Bak said in a meeting news release.
Ability to lift weights quickly can mean a longer life
In a study of 3,878 non-athletes aged 41–85 between 2001 and 2016 Professor Araújo looked at Muscle power as a predictor of all-cause mortality. What he found was that participants with a maximal muscle power above the median for their sex had the best survival. Those in quartiles two and one had, respectively, a 4–5 and 10–13 times higher risk of dying as compared to those above the median in maximal muscle power. “We now show that power is strongly related to all-cause mortality. But the good news is that you only need to be above the median for your sex to have the best survival, with no further benefit in becoming even more powerful,” according to Professor Araújo.
Power is what helps you with everyday activities such as rising from a chair, climbing stairs, kicking a ball. If you remember your high school physics, power is the combination of force and speed (velocity). Remember the old F=MA (force = mass (weight) x acceleration). So how do you exercise to improve for power? Moving weight as fast as you can. Find a weight that is challenging for you, it might just be body weight or it might be a physical weight you can hold or push. It should feel heavy, but not so heavy that you struggle to move/lift it. Try different weights and different speeds and include exercises for you upper and lower body to attract improvements to suit a wider range of daily activities.
Life After 30
- Switch to low-impact activities if joint issues are starting to arise
- biking or swimming but also maintain weight-bearing activities
- They can help you maintain strong bones and fight age-related bone loss.
Exercise recommendations are much the same as your 30’s. Focus on maintaining as much bone and muscle mass as possible through strengthening. Reduce risk of heart disease through your moderate/vigorous activity.
- You may start to experience more aches and pains on a daily basis and require more recovery time between vigorous workouts. Try Low-impact activities if you need or shorter (10 minute) more frequent bouts of activity.
- Muscle strength continues to decline and your lifetime postural habits may mean you start to notice your body curving forwards. Be sure to practice proper sitting and standing postures and strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and your back. Why not try Pilates and Yoga?
Keep working on balance and land-based activities such as walking/jogging (or sport if you’ve kept it up!)
- Continue to try to be active daily.
- Focus turns to falls Prevention. Balance exercises at least 2 days per week are helpful. Examples include standing on one foot, leg raises, walking heel to toe, and walk/ jog/ run on uneven surfaces outside.
- In order to maintain your mobility, ensure your physical activity includes practice for flexibility and strength.
- Continue your aerobic & strength (for all the major muscle groups) exercise regimen. Consider alternate between upper body and lower body exercise days to aid recovery
- Many people enjoy group exercises such as circuit/ Zumba/water aerobics for their community aspect
- Start making balance more of a focus.
- Continue to train for power (reduce falls risk, respond to stimuli, get out of a chair)
Look at your falls risk score here
- Exercise for your Independence
- Muscle loss may now reach critical levels if you haven’t challenged your strength regularly in previous years. This will impact your balance, walking and many other daily activities.
- In your 70s and beyond, you need to maintain your strength and flexibility and continue to challenge yourself!
- Continue getting aerobic exercise every week. Exercise your heart, your
- Continue doing balance exercises to keep from falling
- Devote extra time to warming up and cooling down
- Stretch every day to maintain your flexibility.
Our goal as Exercise Physiologists is to help every Australian, regardless of age, to exercise right. Support your body to be the best it can be by getting active today! Not only will you experience improved quality of life but research now also supports benefits from exercise in almost all areas of health: cardiovascular, metabolic, psychological, neurological, pulmonary. Most recently the benefits for those with cancer were published. In some instances, exercise can go as far as reducing the risk of disease, and decreasing mortality.
It’s never to late to start exercising!
For further reading about exercise for health go to: