Exercise and the elderly

There are some health issues that don’t get the attention they deserve, including exercise for the elderly. As persons become older, their strength, endurance, balance and coordination decline. However, these aging conditions can be delayed with appropriate instructional activity. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging.

When should exercise begin? Well, it begins at birth. If at any age a person stops exercising, when should they begin again? Is it safe for seniors older than 65 to exercise? The advice is don’t ever stop, but if one does, it’s never too late to start again. If at any age you want to keep going, keep exercising.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians almost all older people can benefit from additional physical activity. Exercise is important to the physical and mental health of almost everyone, including older adults. The health benefits of exercise are numerous and the object of exercise is to improve function.

Regular physical activity can protect aging adults from chronic disease, improve mood and lower the chance of injury. Particularly common and important is exercise for the patient with lung or heart disease. Pulmonary and cardiovascular efficiency is improved with the proper amount of exercise. Stroke sufferers can often restore function with conventional and new exercise techniques.

Research studies have confirmed the benefits of moderate intensity exercises – 30 to 60 minutes daily, five to seven days per week. However, one size doesn’t fit all, so appropriate physical activity has to be individualized, so you don’t exercise too much. Exercises for the elderly can include aerobic, strength training, balance and flexibility.

I practice what I preach. I am 81 years young, and I will illustrate an example of my daily exercise routine. Each morning I begin with leg and arm exercises – lifting three pounds for 10-15 minutes. I follow that with practice throwing a baseball and swinging a bat. Next, I work out with an elliptical machine for seven minutes, achieving .35 miles. In the late afternoon, I jog one mile and run the last one or two blocks. I and other seniors play baseball with the Royals during the first week of spring training in Surprise, Arizona every year.

Remember what Babe Ruth said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it!”

An older person’s exercise tolerance often requires a physician’s evaluation and recommendations. A physical therapist and exercise specialist can be involved and that often requires coordination with the physician. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how you can benefit from a daily exercise routine.

Dr. E. David Kirk specializes in internal medicine and geriatrics with Kansas Physician Group. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 316.260.1690 or visit kansasphysiciangroup.com.


By Dr. E. David Kirk, MD
Internal Medicine
Kansas Physician Group
2600 N. Woodlawn Blvd.

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