As people get in their 60s, 70s and 80s their bodies start showing signs of their age. In fact, two examples of physiological aging are a decline in their lung’s maximal aerobic capacity, and, also a decline in their skeletal muscle strength. As a result, older adults exercise with lower intensity, exercise for shorter periods of time and become limited in their ability to functionally perform some physical activities.
Maximal Aerobic Capacity
Above all, a lung’s maximal aerobic capacity determines the intensity and duration of physical activity that can be performed. In addition, the greater the lung’s maximal aerobic capacity, the more intensely physical activity can be performed and for longer periods of time. Most of all, outward signs of reduced maximal aerobic capacity appear when older adults engage in aerobic physical activities. Indeed, older adults start running out of breath earlier than when they were younger. In addition, older adults are able to sustain aerobic physical activities for shorter time periods.
Cardio or aerobic workouts force the heart and lungs to pump blood and oxygen to the muscles, brain, and the body. Consequently, cardio and aerobic workouts have a big impact on the health of older adults. In fact, regular aerobic workouts help the entire pulmonary system to increase the lung’s maximum oxygen capacity.
Physical Activity Guidelines
Most noteworthy, the latest physical activity guidelines recommend older adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. However, if chronic conditions limit them to less than 150 minutes, they should be as physically active as possible.
In addition, older adults should raise their heart rate for stretches of 10 minutes. And in that time, they should do either moderately intense or vigorously intense physical activities.
Furthermore, the minimum time for moderately intense aerobic exercise is 30 minutes on each of the five days of the week. However, older adults will get even more benefits if they exercise for 60 minutes on each of the five days.
Moreover, they don’t have to do it all in one stretch. Indeed, they can break up the 30 minutes into shorter workouts of at least 10 minutes each. Most of all, only the total time spent on aerobic workouts should be at least 150 minutes per week.
As a rule, older adults are exercising at a moderate intensity when their breathing and heart rates are noticeably higher. However, they can still carry on a full conversation, except that their breathing may be heavier and or they may be sweating. In addition, on a 10-point scale, with zero being a state of rest, moderate intensity workouts would be a 5 or 6.
Aerobic Workouts for Older Adults
Older adults need just as much exercise as those under age 65. Furthermore, a wide variety of aerobic workouts are available for older adults. These include, swimming, walking, jogging, water aerobics, ballroom dancing, ellipticals, rowing, bicycling, to name just a few. And, exercise gear like sitting steppers help older adults, who are further along or have limited ability to exercise, get at least some aerobic workout.
Good News for the not so Active Older Adults
A 2019 study by Western University in Ontario, Canada reported that older adults can improve their brain health by short burst of even reasonably low intense physical activity. Researchers found that even only 10 minutes of aerobic activity, like walking, on a treadmill improves cognitive functions, such as memory and attention, of older adults. Moreover these benefits are achievable even by those who hadn’t exercised for a long time. The study of 17 older adults, with an average age of 73, found that boost in executive functions, such as planning and organizing, was achievable for exercise intensities ranging from moderate, heavy, and vigorous levels.
And these benefits are not limited to adults with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. In fact, these benefits are achieved across a spectrum of exercise intensities as well as across a spectrum of fitness levels. Meanwhile, the cognitive benefits are realized almost immediately.