Exercise For Older Adults
How Much, How Often
Build up your endurance gradually, starting out with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time, if you need to. Starting out at a lower level of effort and working your way up gradually is especially important if you have been inactive for a long time. It may take months to go from a very long-standing sedentary lifestyle to doing some of the activities suggested in this section. Your goal is to work your way up, eventually, to a moderate- to-vigorous level that increases your breathing and heart rate. It should feel somewhat hard to you.
Once you reach your goal, you can divide your exercise into sessions of no less than 10 minutes at a time, if you want to, as long as they add up to a total of at least 30 minutes at the end of the day. Doing less than 10 minutes at a time won't give you the desired cardiovascular and respiratory system benefits. (The exception to this guideline is when you have first made the decision to begin doing endurance activities, and you are just starting out). Your goal is to build up to a total of at least 30 minutes of endurance exercise on most or all days of the week. More often is better, and every day is best.
Older adults can be affected by heat and cold more than other adults can. In extreme cases, exposure to too much heat can cause heat stroke, and exposure to very cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia (a dangerous drop in body temperature). If you are exercising outdoors, dress in layers so you can add or remove clothes as needed. Use safety equipment to prevent injuries. For example, wear a helmet for bicycling, and wear protective equipment for activities like skiing and skating. If you walk or jog, wear stable shoes made for that purpose. Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can't talk.
Last Editorial Review: 3/3/2003
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