There is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that physical activity can have a protective effect on a range of many chronic conditions including coronary heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, mental health problems and social isolation. In general, the more time spent being physically active, the greater the health benefits but we now know that even relatively small increases in physical activity contribute to improved health and quality of life. In adults and older adults the new guidelines will help to maintain strength and delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density which occurs from around 50 years of age as well as highlighting the additional benefit of balance and flexibility exercises for older adults. The report also highlights the risks of inactivity and sedentary behaviour for health. There have been notable developments in the evidence base for the health effects of sedentary time in adults, with research suggesting sitting time is associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, and cancer risk and survivorship. The available evidence demonstrates that high intensity interval exercise has clinically meaningful effects on fitness, body weight and insulin resistance, and can be as or more effective than moderate to vigorous physical activity. Contrary to previous advice requiring a 10-minute bout of activity evidence now demonstrates that there is no minimum amount of physical activity required to achieve some health benefits. However, specific targets – such as aiming to do at least 10 minutes at a time – can be effective as a behavioural goal for people starting from low levels of activity.
Guidelines Adults (19 to 64 years) • For good physical and mental health, adults should aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none, and more is better still. Adults should do activities to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. These could include heavy gardening, carrying heavy shopping, or resistance exercise.
Muscle strengthening activities should be done on at least two days a week, but any strengthening activity is better than none.
- Each week, adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling); or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (such as running); or even shorter durations of very vigorous intensity activity (such as sprinting or stair climbing); or a combination of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous intensity activity.
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- Adults should aim to minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary, and when physically possible should break up long periods of inactivity with at least light physical activity. Older Adults (65 years and over) • Older adults should participate in daily physical activity to gain health benefits, including maintenance of good physical and mental health, wellbeing, and social functioning. Some physical activity is better than none: even light activity brings some health benefits compared to being sedentary, while more daily physical activity provides greater health and social benefits.
- Older adults should maintain or improve their physical function by undertaking activities aimed at improving or maintaining muscle strength, balance and flexibility on at least two days a week. These could be combined with sessions involving moderate aerobic activity or could be additional sessions aimed specifically at these components of fitness.
- Each week older adults should aim to accumulate 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate intensity aerobic activity, building up gradually from current levels. Those who are already regularly active can achieve these benefits through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity, to achieve greater benefits. Weight-bearing activities which create an impact through the body help to maintain bone health.
- Older adults should break up prolonged periods of being sedentary with light activity when physically possible, or at least with standing, as this has distinct health benefits for older people.
Weight training by older people may build not only strength and muscle mass but also motivation and confidence, potentially spurring them to continue exercising, according to an interesting new study of the emotional impacts of lifting weights.
The findings intimate that people worried that they might be too old or inept to start resistance training should perhaps try it, to see how their bodies and minds respond.
We already have plenty of evidence, of course, that weight training can help us to age well. By our early 40s, most of us are losing muscle mass, at a rate of about 5 percent a decade, with the decline often precipitating a long slide toward frailty and dependence.
But older people who lift weights can slow or reverse that descent, studies show. In multiple experiments, older people who start to lift weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness and metabolic health.
But lifting helps only those who try it, and statistics indicate that barely 17 percent of older Americans regularly lift weights.
So, as part of a larger study of weight training and the elderly, scientists at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland recently decided to see if they could discover how weight training changes the minds as well as the musculature of people who had not done it before.
To start, they turned to 81 older men and women who were part of their health database and who had agreed to begin resistance training. These volunteers were all between the ages of 65 and 75 and, like many Finns, healthy and physically active. But they did not lift weights.
For the full study, they began a twice-weekly program of supervised, full-body resistance training at the university to familiarize participants with proper technique and build a base of strength.
After three months, the group was randomly assigned to continue training once, twice or three times a week, while a separate, untrained group served as controls. Periodically, the researchers checked the volunteers’ strength, fitness and metabolic health, and also their attitudes about the workouts, including whether they found them daunting or inviting and how difficult it was for the volunteers to find the time and resolve to show up.
But then, after the months of supervised lifting, the exercisers abruptly were on their own. The researchers explained that they could no longer have access to the university facilities and provided them with information about low-cost, suitable gyms in the area. But any subsequent training would be at their own volition.
The researchers waited six months and then contacted the volunteers to see who was still lifting and how often. They repeated those interviews after an additional six months.
They found, to their surprise, that a year after the formal study had ended, almost half of the volunteers still were lifting weights at least once a week, it was those who had come to feel most competent in the gym. If someone’s self-efficacy, which is a measure of confidence, had risen substantially during the study, he or she usually kept lifting.
For now, people interested in starting to lift weights should look for classes or trainers specializing in beginners and learn to lift safely.
We know how important it is to stay active as we get older and, if you are, that’s a good thing. But we have to do more than just stay active if we want to stay healthy and strong. Yes, we have to lift weights.
VeryWell say lifting weights isn’t just for athletes or bodybuilders, it’s for all of us, especially older adults. It’s by far one of the most important things you can do for your body and here’s why.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training can:
- Reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, back pain, and depression
- Help you manage your weight
- Improve your balance
- Help you sleep better
- Improve glucose control
- Increase strength and muscle mass while raising metabolism
- Promote more independence as you get older
The ACSM/AHA Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Adults suggest a program that includes:
- 8-10 exercises involving the major muscles of the body: The chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, and core.
- 2-3 nonconsecutive days a week – Rest days allow your muscles to change and grow stronger while also allowing your body to recover
- Using enough weight to complete at least 1 set of 10-15 reps of each exercise
Setting Up Your Strength Training Workouts
- Choose Your Exercises – If you’re working out with machines, a common strength program might include:
- Choose Your Reps and Sets – The guidelines suggest 1 set of 10-15 reps. Start with a weight you can lift 15 times to get used to the exercises and gradually increase the weight and reduce your reps as you get stronger.
- Choose Your Weight – This takes some time and experimentation, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose a light weight at first to get your form down. The more you exercise and the stronger you get, the easier it gets to choose the right amount of weight.
- Choose How Often You Exercise – If you’re just getting started, you might start with 2 days of strength training with at least one day of rest in between. As you get stronger, you can add a third day of strength training.
Q1. Are you doing the recommended amount of Physical Exercise – if not – why not?
Q2. What would have to change to make you do more?
Q3. Could you reach the guideline recommendations at home or with friends without getting a gym membership?