Fitness Over 40Older Populations

Exercise and the Baby Boom Generation: Research Overview

Our baby boom generation, which is age 65 and older, is approximately doubling between the years of 2000 and 2030, as they enter full maturity.  This brings to light at huge classification of people that will require the need to stay active and healthy to help minimize aging health issues that are typically experienced at this stage.   The barriers associated with training people in this age bracket are the physical limitations and possible chronic diseases that might already be in existence.  According to Powers and Howley, maximal aerobic power decreases about 1% each year from their maximum peak at age 20 to 40.  Adding in the years of sedentary lifestyle activity, the muscular makeup of seniors will be dramatically reduced, limiting certain functions that may be performed.

In a study by Mobily on exercise for the older population, only 26% of seniors age 65-74, and 18% age 74 and older, engage in enough activity to make an impact on their quality of life.  Some of the common chronic occurrences associated with aging that factor performance are osteoporosis, which is the deterioration of bone mass, and strength, which occurs from atrophy(sarcopenia) of the muscle tissue from years of limited activity.  Both posing a challenge when incorporating an exercise routine to offset these issues.

Osteoporosis, according to Powers and Howley, primarily affects women over the age of 50, and is classified as one of two forms:  Type 1 is vertebral and distal areas that affect women, age 50 – 65 almost 8 times more than men (Powers and Howley).  Type 2, which is found in ages 70 and above, typically result in hip, pelvic, and distal humerus fractures and according to Powers and Howley, affect twice as many women as they do men.   In a study by Mobily, 614 adults participated in a regular exercise program to determine if they could maintain a regular exercise program and determine which modes of activity provided the most popularity..  Participants were asked to engage in moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes, 5 days each week.   Of the results, walking was the predominant mode of exercise, with very few engaging in resistance training or cross training.   Fahlman et al (2011), studied elderly individuals completing resistance training with resistance bands 3 times per week and measured strength gains in bicep curl, chair sit-to-stand, gait velocity, and stride length.  Results showed that completing these exercises improved upper and lower body strength among subjects over the control group, who did not complete the exercise routine.

According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, the proper exercise prescription for seniors  would be to first engage in low impact, weight bearing activities, such as walking, tennis, golfing, or the like, and also adding in resistance training.  Their intensity level should be moderate to high, in regards to weight bearing.  These activities should occur 3-5 times per week and last 30-60 minutes.  It might be difficult to monitor heart rate if the person is on high blood pressure medication (beta-blockers), which will limit their heart rate from increasing and might injury the client.  Instead, utilize the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale and create an intensity level on the 6 to 20 scale.

A exercise routine for older population:
Cardiovascular:

Frequency:  5 times per week

Intensity:   moderate (10-15 on the rate of perceived exertion scale)

Time:  30-60 minutes

Type:   Walking, jogging, swimming, hiking (full body, preferably weight bearing)




Resistance Training:

Frequency:  3-5 times per week.

Intensity:  12 to 15 repetitions per set, 1 exercise per muscle group, 1-2 sets per exercise

Time:  15 to 30 minutes

Type:  Resistance bands, hydro-weights, dumbbells, selectorized weight machines.


Mobily, K. (2014). Exercise Practice and Compliance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal Of Park & Recreation Administration32(1), 96-109.

Fahlman, M. M., McNevin, N., Boardley, D., Morgan, A., & Topp, R. (2011). Effects of Resistance Training on Functional Ability in Elderly Individuals. American Journal Of Health Promotion25(4), 237-243

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