Written by Dr Helen Flaherty, Head of Health Promotion at Heart Research UK
Physical activity for older adults (aged 65+) while staying at home
At a time when the population is being asked to stay at home, finding ways to keep active can be challenging. Regular physical activity is strongly associated with a reduction in chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as improving mental health.
For adults aged 65 years and over, it is particularly important to do strengthening activities to maintain physical function and slow down the decline in muscle mass while keeping bones strong. Even small increases in physical activity can positively impact on health. Heart Research UK have some tips to help you meet the recommended amount of physical activity at home.
How much physical activity is recommended?
The Government recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week for adults. This can be broken down into chunks of ten minutes or more. It is recommended that older adults also engage in activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on two days each week. If you are not used to doing this amount of physical activity, you can start small and build up to the recommended amount over time.
Moderate Intensity Activities
(150 minutes weekly)
Your heart will beat faster, you will breathe harder, you will get warmer and you can maintain a conversation
E.g. Brisk Walking, dancing, gardening or cycling
Vigorous Intensity Activities
(75 minutes weekly)
Your heart will beat rapidly, you will breathe much harder, you will get warmer and it will be difficult to have a conversation
E.g. Running, riding a bike fast or on hills, hiking uphill or energetic dancing
Activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility
(to be done on 2 days each week)
E.g. Lifting light weights, push-ups, sit-ups, step-ups, heavy gardening and stretching.
Find hobbies that get you moving
If you tend to engage in hobbies that don’t require you to move very much, look for new hobbies that will get you moving, such as gardening, walking, weight-lifting or dancing.
Avoid long periods of inactivity
Set a timer to go off at specific times throughout the day to prompt you to do ten (or more) minutes of physical activity. Any activity is better than none. You can include a variety of light, moderate and vigorous activities. E.g. a brisk walk, sit-ups, weight-lifting, gardening or housework. You can use tins of baked beans, or similar objects, for weight-lifting.
Don’t be a couch potato
Rather than spending your evenings sitting on the sofa without moving much, why not try a few gentle exercises, such as leg raises, while watching your favourite TV show.
Examples of some exercises you can do from your sofa can be found on the NHS website, and you can find lots more healthy tips, advice and recipes at heartresearch.org.uk