Vigorous Exercise Needed for Later in Life: Study

Researchers found that people who did strenuous exercise twice a week had better mental and physical health and fitness than those who did moderate exercise. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)
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By Jessie Zhang

A study has found that a great impediment to the quality of life of people aged 65 and over is their assumption that they should become more sedentary as they get older. In fact, they can and should be more active.

The team from the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change of Melbourne University found that when older people exercise, it tends not to be intense enough for it to be beneficial.

Author Michelle Jongenelis said: “A whopping 75 percent of Australians aged 65 and over don’t do the minimum weekly recommended 150 minutes of activities that improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance, and flexibility.”

“There are challenges when it comes to normalising exercise at an older age—we expect to be less active as we grow older and worry that we might get hurt,” Jongenelis uncovered.

“Well-meaning family members often discourage more vigorous forms of activity. Older people are also more likely to have physical limitations, and many are not used to scheduling regular exercise into their days,” she added.

Epoch Times Photo

An elderly lady trains on an exercise device. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

According to a study published in 2020 in The British Medical Journal, vigorous exercise, which can simply mean fast walking, is particularly effective for adults over 70, and possibly even extends lifespan.

But high intensity doesn’t have to mean high impact.

“By high intensity, we mean training that gets you really sweaty and out of breath,” Dorthe Stensvold, lead author of the study and professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said in a press release.

“The difference is not statistically significant, but the trend is so clear that we believe the results give good reason to recommend high-intensity training for the elderly,” Stensvold said.

The researchers also found that people who did vigorous exercise had more improvements in mental and physical health and fitness than those who did moderate exercise, suggesting that vigorous exercise should be further explored as a way to keep older adults healthy.

This contrasts with Australia’s Department of Health advice which recommends moderate and vigorous activity for people 5 to 64 years but leaves out the latter for those 65 years and older.

Examples of moderate exercises include walking, swimming, golfing, mopping, vacuuming, or tennis.

Vigorous exercises include high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT), pilates, jogging, aerobics, fast cycling, soccer, or netball.

Exercise physiologist Sam Rooney told the ABC that instead of focusing on their heart rate, for most people, the important thing is to develop an exercise habit that feels “fresh” and “interesting”.

“If you’re someone who wants to exercise and do something that’s beneficial, it’s more important that you enjoy what you’re doing.”

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