Physical Activity in the Elderly

Physical activity can be defined as activities that are performed by using our muscles and joints in daily life resulting in energy consumption, increasing heart and respiratory rate and leading to fatigue at different intensities.

There is a decrease in physical activity with increasing age. Aging is characterized by structural and functional changes in all organ systems and, consequently, by major aerobic capacity, muscle mass and muscle strength reduction. The skeletal muscles of the elderly are smaller and weaker. With age, the area of the skeletal muscle cross-section decreases by 25-30%. This power loss continues with an increase of 1-2% per year.

In the 70s, the flexibility of the sedentary people reduces by 20-30%, which leads to reduction in functionality. Shortly thereafter, problems emerge in self-care activities such as bathing, dressing, going to bed and getting out. Physical activity is the most important factor in protecting and maintaining general health.

Recommendations for Physical Activity in Elderly;

  • Low and moderate exercise should be done (at least 30 minutes), severe exercises should be avoided.
  • Prolonged and complex exercises should be avoided.
  • Exercises that exclude weight training, such as walking and chair exercises should be preferred.
  • Dirt surfaces should be preferred for stable and easy walk.
  • Group sports such as dancing and swimming should be attended.
  • Each physical activity should started with warm-up and finished with cool down activities.
  • Activities can be done for 2 or 3 days a week in order to strengthen the muscles and to increase balance and flexibility of the body.
  • You should not hold your breathe during activities and if you have chest pain, heart rhythm deterioration, dizziness, weakness, fatigue and blackout during the activity; you should stop your physical activity and consult with your doctor.

If the individual did not exercise before, he/she should start with mild movements and then gradually increase both the time devoted and the intensity of exercises, and continue without tire out the body. Physical activity programs should be organized according to age, health status and personal abilities.

Uzm. Physiotherapist Fatma Özgöker