By: Chris Parchmann and the Ageility Team
People of all ages are advised to perform aerobic endurance exercise for cardiovascular health and fitness. Running, biking, rowing, cross-country skiing, and walking are all great examples of aerobic exercise. Aerobic training can help with reducing body weight and lessen the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Increased aerobic fitness reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, some types of cancer, psychological stress, in addition to improved digestion and sleep.
Ageility recommends an aerobic training frequency of two to five days per week, and the recommended exercise duration is 20 to 60 minutes per session. An exercise intensity of 60% to 90% of maximum heart rate is acceptable, but training around 75% of maximum heart rate may be best. The fact that maximum heart rate decreases as people age (approximately 10 heartbeats per decade), the relative exercise intensity should be essentially the same for young, middle, and older adults. Older adults with limited cardiovascular fitness must begin with a shorter exercise duration and a lower training intensity. Some older adults may only be able to withstand 5 to 10 minutes of physical activity at approximately 40% of maximum heart. Short duration exercise is still productive as opposed to remaining sedentary. Ideally, less fit individuals will increase their fitness level over time and be able to endure longer bouts of exercise.
Although the training protocol based on percentage of maximum heart rate is easy to monitor and generally appropriate for older adults, there are some limitations to be aware of when using this method. For example, someone with perfectly normal heart function could have a maximum heart rate up to 30 beats per minute above or 30 beats per minute below that predicted by the general formula 220 minus age. In addition, people taking certain medications, such as beta-blockers, have lower maximum heart rates due to the drug induced bradycardia. Bradycardia is a resting heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Ageility advises older adults assess exercise intensity using heart rate response and personal effort level.
Ageility suggests the talk test to monitor older adults’ exercise effort level. Older adults that can talk in short to medium length sentences while they are exercising are most likely performing their aerobic activity at the appropriate level of intensity. When an individual has difficulty carrying on a brief conversation during the activity, they are most likely exercising harder than necessary.
Ageility recommends incorporating aerobic exercise training in addition to resistance training exercise programs. When grouped together, the aerobic activity may be best performed after the resistance training workout, and concluded with static stretches. Resistance training focused exercise sessions can also be preceded by 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic activity. In this scenario, the less strenuous aerobic exercise serves as a warm up for the resistance exercise. Static stretching is then performed after the resistance exercise as a cool down to the training session.