“I’m too old”, “I’m not used to moving”, “I’m afraid of getting hurt”, “I haven’t changed until today, so I don’t change anymore”. If you are in your 60s, but you identify with any of these phrases, it’s time to review your concepts about physical exercise.
For starters: no more apologies. Also, don’t listen to the negativity of others. The only thing that can effectively prevent you from exercising, other than yourself, is your health. Nothing else.
to natan Chehter, geriatrician of BP – The Beneficência Portuguesa Hospital of São Paulo, the main problem still revolves around prejudice against the elderly, the so-called ageism.
“There is no age when exercise is not beneficial. There are people who could benefit, if they had the stimulus to do it. AND there is a myth that the elderly person does not gain muscle mass, cannot gain weight, all that has to be disproved.”
There are two profiles of seniors. One is the one who led a healthy life while exercising. Now imagine: if you are 59 years old, it is superactive and used to getting tough in training, will you stop the next day because you turned 60?
On the other hand, there is the one who has always been sedentary. But, according to experts heard by Live well, that’s no excuse — even if you haven’t played any sport or any exercise — it’s never too late to start.
“Elderly people can perform any exercise that is safe”, says Carlos Roberto Bueno Júnior, doctor in biological sciences from USP (University of São Paulo), coordinator of Nesgef (Center for Studies in Health, Genetics and Physical Education) and current associate professor at EEFERP (School of Physical Education and Sport of Ribeirão Preto).
The specialist emphasizes, however, that before starting any training, it is necessary to assess the clinical situation of the elderly to know if there is a possible risk factor for the emergence or worsening of any pathology.
A thorough evaluation by a physical education professional is also essential before starting a training program with seniors. In addition, a medical certificate is mandatory for the practice of physical activity from 70 years of age.
“In terms of safety, we must mainly avoid muscle, bone and joint injuries. I will not ask the elderly to jump from a table on the floor, for example, nor to play basketball without being prepared and thus be exposed to the risk of shocks and falls “, says the teacher.
Benefits of exercise in old age:
- Increased cardiorespiratory capacity (less fatigue);
- Muscle mass gain (avoiding sarcopenia);
- Increased bone mass (preventing osteoporosis);
- Reduction of body fat and, consequently, obesity prevention;
- Stabilization of the joint by strengthening the musculature;
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cholesterol, blood glucose;
- Improved sleep and improved mood;
- Maintenance/improvement of functionality such as walking speed, carrying out activities of daily living and decreasing the risk of falls.
There are older people who are more active than many young people
The old man and the old woman can follow a routine similar to that of any young person, as long as they are healthy enough to do so. For example, incline bench presses are not recommended for hypertensive individuals. On the other hand, the abductor chair (one that you force to open your leg) is not advisable for an elderly person with severe osteoporosis. But realize that age is not the issue.
“In relation to time, it is important that the practice of weight training is carried out throughout life, so there is no time that it can do it and then stop. In fact, there are already some studies that show a reduction in muscle mass in the elderly after 8 weeks who stopped training weights”, points out Igor Conterato, physical education professional and author of 4 books, 3 on aging, such as “Health of the Elderly: A Look from Physical Education Professionals”.
With weights, the situation is the same—it all depends on the person’s level of training. There is no limit amount. “What you can’t do is pick up a lot of weight without the correct technique,” warns Conterato.
The more intense the better?
Conterato, who is also a Ph.D. in public health and an expert in training health professionals to prescribe physical exercise for the elderly, comments that an article was recently published recommending physical exercise for the elderly.
In this work, the authors report that to maintain the functional capacity of the elderly, at least, weight training should be performed between 2 and 3 times a week and with progressive intensity, that is, starting lightly and evolving to high intensity.
In addition, it is important to perform aerobic exercises 3 to 7 days a week such as running, swimming, jumping rope, with time ranging from 20 to 60 minutes a day and moderate intensity (when you get tired, but can keep talking while doing).
The specialist, however, remembers that this is a generic recommendation, based only on the maintenance of functional capacity for healthy aging.
The most recent WHO (World Health Organization) guidance is the practice of 300 minutes of light to moderate exercise per week or 150 minutes of intense exercise.
But again: each senior needs an individual training program. The USP professor also explains that it is essential to understand that behavioral changes are very difficult to achieve and must be sought gradually.
“If you don’t do any physical activity on a regular basis, this is your first challenge, without worrying about quantity and intensity initially”, he points out.
Quality and pleasure must go hand in hand
Today, there is no lack of options. That’s why it’s worth looking for an activity that, in addition to the physical benefits, is also pleasurable.
And when suggested and accompanied by a specialist, even better, as many use equipment that measure heart rate during exercise to analyze the intensity of cardiorespiratory training, for example.
Another efficient way to know if the intensity is adequate to increase muscle mass, if that is the goal, is to use load with repetitions of 8 to 12. But if you can do more than 12 it is interesting to increase the load.
What is the ideal weight? Whatever you can get up, but not easy, of course.
I have comorbidities, can I train?
Yes, and even with high intensity, as long as proper care is taken, in addition to specific monitoring. People who undergo hemodialysis cannot undergo intense training.
But understand that this is a consequence of the disease, regardless of age. The same goes for newly operated who, depending on the procedure, need to be at rest.
“Elderly people with heart disease, for example, can perform high-intensity training. As long as other variables such as interval time, number of sets, number of repetitions and even rest time during training are controlled”, describes Conterato.
Oh, and don’t cover yourself too much, and don’t compare yourself to others either. Even a simple daily walk makes all the difference. In fact, in general, the practice of physical exercise contributes to the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases, in addition to increasing life expectancy.
exercise is medicine
This report is part of the campaign of Live well Exercise É Remédio, which aims to emphasize the importance of physical activity for health and give tips and ideas to combat sedentary lifestyles.
The contents address the importance of physical activity to prevent and treat diseases, the signs your body gives when you don’t move enough, tips to make exercise a habit, and find out which one suits you best, essential care to get started to move, including in old age and inspiring reports from people who have treated serious health issues with physical activity. But there’s so much more. Check out all the campaign content here.
This is the third campaign in a series of Live well which has brought thematic content to help fight the problems that many people face in their daily lives and contribute to your health and well-being.
The first was Overcome Postpartum Depression, held in March; and the second was “Have a Healthy Mouth” in June.
Sources: Carlos Roberto Bueno Junior, physical educator, master in biodynamics and doctor in biological sciences from USP (University of São Paulo), coordinator of Nesgef (Center for Studies in Health, Genetics and Physical Education) and current associate professor at the School of Physical Education and Sport of Ribeirão Preto – USP; Eduardo Figueiredo, coordinator of the medical residency in geriatrics at HC-UFPE (Hospital das Clínicas of the Federal University of Pernambuco), linked to the Ebserh Network; Igor Conterato, graduated in physical education, doctor in public health, national coordinator of the postgraduate program in physical exercise applied to special groups and prevention/recovery of traumatic orthopedic injuries and specialist in training health professionals to prescribe physical exercise for seniors; and Nathan Chehter, geriatrician at BP – A Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo.