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How Much Exercise Is Too Much For Seniors?

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How Much Exercise Is Too Much For Seniors?
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How Much Exercise Is Too Much For Seniors?

May 14, 2019

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy for everyone – including older adults. Most seniors should make aerobic exercise, strength training and balance and flexibility exercise a part of their weekly routine in order to prevent health problems and remain as independent as possible.

Two Seniors Riding Bikes on a Nice Day However, too much of a good thing can be bad. Over-exercising can lead to exhaustion and injury that can take longer to heal for older adults. In addition, studies have shown that regular extremely vigorous exercise can result in a higher risk of developing coronary artery calcification, heart damage and heart rhythm disorders. 

What Happens When Seniors Get Too Much Exercise?

Most people do not exercise at high intensity over long periods, so the risk of developing heart problems from too much exercise is low. In fact, exercise is associated with improved heart health. However, it is possible for seniors to over-exercise. When that happens, they may develop these symptoms:

  • Needing longer periods of rest between exercise sessions
  • Getting overuse injuries
  • Feeling exhausted instead of energized
  • Being sore for days at a time

Heading Off Negative Impacts of Too Much Exercise

Moderate exercise is recommended for good physical and mental health. But seniors should take precautions to not over-exercise, which can result in negative outcomes. Those precautions include:
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise.
  • Know your cues. If you start feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated during exercise, stop. Similarly, stop your workout if you feel sharp tightness, pain, throbbing or burning.
  • Take it slow. Begin an exercise routine slowly to allow your endurance to increase. If your exercise program leaves you feeling tired all day, you may be pushing yourself too hard.
  • Exercise with a buddy. Just as you would never swim alone, exercise with a buddy whenever possible.

How Much Exercise Is Just Right for Seniors?

The National Institutes of Health recommends that seniors participate in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly and combine that activity with strength conditioning, balance and flexibility exercises. 

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and can help lower blood pressure, regulate weight and strengthen the immune system. Aerobic exercises that are especially good for seniors include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Heavy housework or gardening
  • Water aerobics
  • Tennis
  • Dancing

Strength Training

Strength training is a great way for seniors to combat frailty and weakness by building muscle strength and preserving bone density. Seniors should incorporate the following strength training exercises into their fitness routines at least twice per week:
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Shoulder presses
  • Workouts using weights or resistance bands

Balance Training

Balance training is an important way for seniors to prevent falls. It is recommended that seniors do two sets of 10 repetitions of these activities at least twice per week:
  • Marching in place
  • Side leg raises
  • Toe lifts
  • Balancing on one foot

Flexibility Training

Flexibility training helps seniors increase circulation and maximize joint strength. It is recommended that seniors include these activities at least twice per week during workout routines:
  • Stretching
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Head rolls
  • Arm circles
  • Ankle circles

Before You Start a New Exercise Program

Before beginning any new exercise program, check with your physician. Your physician can help you prepare for and plan the types of physical activity that would be healthiest for you and that avoid the repercussions of too much exercise. While regular highly vigorous exercise can be dangerous for seniors, experts agree that the health benefits of a moderate exercise program outweigh the risks of being physically inactive.

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