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Seniors Should Strive to Keep Up with Those Younger

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Age is no excuse for becoming a couch potato. In fact, all adults should strive for a regular exercise program to the best of their abilities, the experts say. Family caregivers can check out the resources that could help their loved ones get on the move.

Q. As a healthy 78-year-old, how much exercise do I need, and what other ways can I stay fit? My wife used to plan my schedule, but since she died I'm on my own.

Seniors are not off the hook because of their age when it comes to exercise, according to government guidelines. Adults including seniors need two and a half hours a week of moderate aerobic physical activity, which will return substantial health benefits, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The recommendation for adults of all ages and physical conditions also offers an alternative to the moderate activity – an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity.

The report says, "Older adults should follow the guidelines for other adults when it is within their physical capacity. If a chronic condition prohibits their ability to follow those guidelines, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow." It also notes that if older people are at risk of falling, they should also do exercises that maintain or improve balance.

Recommended for adults are aerobic activity, such as walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing, jogging, that should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes.

Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight training, push-ups, sit-ups and gardening, at least two days a week. The guidelines are designed so people can easily fit physical activity into their daily plan and incorporate activities they enjoy. For more information, visit

You should talk with your doctor about other ways to stay healthy including diet and medications. Also, don't underestimate the value of companionship. If you don't have regular interaction with others, get involved with a group at your church or local senior center.

You shouldn't feel that you're on your own. If you don't have friends and family nearby, consider hiring a non-medical caregiving companion. Home Instead employs individuals who can assist with various activities including meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication (and exercise) reminders, and shopping.

For more information about exercise guidelines for older adults, visit

Last revised: May 21, 2011

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