Physical fitness for senior citizens

by | October 3, 2005 12:00 am

Fitness can be performance related or healthrelated. Performance-related fitness is a measure of an athlete’s agility, balance, power, and speed. This topic focuses on health-related fitness, which you can achieve through regular physical activity. The benefits of both types of fitness are a healthy heart and lungs (cardiorespiratory fitness), increased flexibility, and muscular strength and endurance.

Health-related fitness helps you feel your best and reduces the risk of heart attack, colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Being fit helps you to have more energy throughout the day for work or school and energy left over to enjoy your leisure time.

How much physical activity is required to become fit?

Experts recommend:1

 Activity at moderate intensity (equal to a brisk walk) for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week or more.

 Vigorous exercise for 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week or more. Vigorous exercise is done at a pace that increases your heart rate to 70% or more of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can beat at a maximum activity level. To find your target heart for exercising, use the target heart rate calculator .

Children and teens should be active at least 1 hour a day.

What types of physical activity improve fitness?

Most experts agree that there are three kinds of fitness:

 Flexibility is the ability to move joints and use muscles through their full range of motion. Stretching is a flexibility exercise.

 Aerobic (cardiorespiratory) fitness is the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently and depends upon the condition of your heart, lungs, and muscles. This type of fitness increases the amount of oxygen that is delivered to your muscles, which allows them to work longer. Walking is a type of aerobic exercise.

 Muscular fitness includes building stronger muscles and increasing how long you can use them (endurance). Resistance training through weight lifting and body movements such as pushups can improve muscular fitness.

Keep in mind that you may be fairly fit in one area (perhaps aerobic fitness) but just getting started with another (such as flexibility or muscle strengthening).

How can I be more physically active?

Try to make physical activity a regular and essential part of your day, just like brushing your teeth or going to work. Start slowly and be sure to consult your doctor first, especially if you aren’t active at all or have health problems. Make an appointment with yourself when you are most likely to keep it. For example, consider scheduling your activity in the morning if you tend to talk yourself out of it later in the day.

Activity throughout the day burns calories and helps maintain your weight. Small activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking far away and walking to your office or the grocery store can add up quickly to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity. Make a plan to ride your bike to work once a week. Instead of e-mailing or calling a coworker, get up and walk to his or her desk. If you don’t have time to take one 30minute walk, break it up into three 10-minute walks.

Walking is an activity that most people can do safely and routinely with family members, friends, coworkers, or pets. Keep track of your steps with a step counter or pedometer, which you can buy at a sporting goods store. If you have a desk job, you may see how little you actually move in a typical day. Wearing the step counter will motivate you to accumulate more steps during the day.

If you want a more structured way to get exercise, consider joining a health club or community center that offers fitness activities. Find an activity that you love and feel you can stick with, and then vary it with other activities so you don’t get bored. For example, 3 days a week, take a brisk, 30-minute walk with a friend and then lift some weights together. On other days, take a water aerobics class, ride a bike, or take the dog for a hike. Join a softball, volleyball, or basketball league. The more you can find activities you like, the greater your chances for success. Use the activity calorie calculator to find out how many calories are burned during various activities.

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