Physical Activity and Older Adults

Often, older adults are stereotyped as frail, senile, and sedentary. It is true that as our bodies age, we lose muscle mass through a natural process termed sarcopenia. However, continued physical activity after retirement is critically important. Physical activity has been shown to delay mortality and reduce morbidities, such as fractures from falls, declining cognitive function, morbidities from chronic diseases, and loss of independence. Essentially, physical activity can help add more ‘good’ years. This is possible because regular physical activity helps older adults retain muscular strength and agility which allows them to continue to perform activities of daily living independently and helps them prevent falls.


Further, research shows older adults that are physically active have better cognitive function, including slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In other words, an active lifestyle can keep the mind sharp.


The World Health Organization recommends older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity. They should perform activities that enhance their balance at least 3 days each week as well as participating in muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days each week. Balance activities can prevent falls and fractures. Muscle-strengthening activities are especially important for maintaining necessary strength for activities of daily living as well as keeping bones strong to prevent osteoporosis.



Blog provided by Rebecca Nikl, ISU Dietetic Intern

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