A long life in good health – who doesn’t want that? Numerous studies show that those who exercise regularly age healthier. Even someone who hasn’t been athletic all his life can still start at 60 and quickly achieve success, says Prof. Ingo Froboese. He heads the Center for Health at the German Sport University in Cologne.
Improve fitness in old age with moderate training
Studies show that previously untrained people can double their muscle strength in just over a year through sport and exercise – even at the age of 60. A comparison with younger people shows how this pays off: trained 60-year-olds have the same fitness level as 30-year-olds, who do not exercise.
Exercising in old age keeps you healthy and fit – most people know that. But contrary to widespread misconception, this applies not only to young people and adults, but also to seniors, even at an advanced age. Even people aged 70 or 80 can significantly improve their strength and endurance through moderate training.
The best training is a combination of several disciplines: First, endurance training that is easy on the joints, such as cycling or Nordic walking, and second, a ten-minute gymnastics program three to five days a week. In addition, it helps to consistently integrate exercise into everyday life – with walks and climbing stairs, for example.
Sport in old age should be fun
Many seniors initially shy away from doing sports at an older age for fear of injury or overexertion. In addition, there are often physical limitations that may no longer allow the practice of some sports.
Statistics show that as people age, most people become less and less physically active: while 35% of women and 44% of men do more than 2.5 hours of intense, sweaty exercise every week, men over 65 are down to 18 %, 13% of the women are physically active at all.
Nevertheless, the following principle applies: You are never too old for sport – it is just a matter of finding the right type of sport and the appropriate level of training for yourself. Above all, it should be about having fun while exercising and not so much about performance.
Regular physical activity has significant health benefits for most people. Even regular brisk walks strengthen muscles, bones, heart and blood vessels, mobility and endurance.
Adapt training and sport to his age
The training must of course be adapted to the current physical condition. In addition to the age of the respective person, this also includes current illnesses, the health of the heart, blood vessels and muscles, injuries or the effects of previous illnesses. For some individuals, an extra lap down the hallway in the nursing home may be enough; frail people are already required to get up and sit down several times from their chairs.
Other older people may be so healthy and fit that they can go jogging or take part in aerobics classes. As a general rule, older people, including frail people in care facilities, who have never exercised before can begin exercise or physical training with guidance and support. Unfortunately, this happens too seldom in reality.
What are the benefits of regular exercise in old age?
Sport in old age has numerous advantages for seniors:
Physical inactivity is a. in old age one of the main risk factors for an increased risk of various diseases and increased mortality.
Physical activity increases life expectancy, counteracts obesity, lowers blood pressure and the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and injuries (from falls or accidents).
Regular exercise promotes mental and physical health, improves functionality, balance and body control, counteracts the development of impaired sugar metabolism or diabetes mellitus and significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and the mortality rate (up to 50%).
In addition, sport in old age is beneficial for the prevention of osteoporosis and some joint diseases.
Exercise reduces the natural breakdown of muscle mass and the gradual loss of muscle endurance, reduces loss of physical fitness, improves balance and body control, which in turn reduces the risk of falls.
It reduces the risk of certain types of cancer.
Sleep gets better.
Prevents depression, improves overall functioning and boosts self-confidence.
A trained heart does more for seniors
Jogging, swimming and cycling are ideal sports to train your heart in old age.
Those who do endurance sports regularly have a bigger and stronger heart than non-athletes. Instead of around 20 liters, the heart of an endurance athlete can pump up to 35 liters through the body per minute. The oxygen supply is also better in trained people.
According to the Professional Association of German Internists e.V. (BDI), people over the age of 50 perform best in endurance sports. These include jogging, swimming, cycling, walking and hiking. The German Heart Foundation recommends exercising more intensively and persistently for at least half an hour four to five times a week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also advises being active for around 150 minutes a week. This also includes exercise in everyday life such as walks, gardening and climbing stairs.
Three sports that seniors do to keep their hearts fit:
- Jogging: Jogging is also suitable for older people. The rule of thumb is: you should work up a sweat, but you should still be able to talk. Walking is gentler than jogging because the joints are not constantly exposed to vibrations. Walking also strengthens the arm muscles. Anyone who is brisk on the move trains up to 90 percent of their muscles when walking.
- Swimming: If you have joint problems, swimming is a good choice. In the water, there is less weight on the joints. Those who like water and enjoy jogging can try aqua jogging. The risk of injury when swimming is also low. Attention: Patients with coronary heart disease should slowly get used to the water if the water temperature is below 27 °C. The cold stimulus can cause severe vasoconstriction.
- Cycling: Cycling is also easy on the joints. If you lose strength on inclines, an e-bike is a practical support. If you like cycling but prefer to stay at home when the weather is bad, you can strengthen your heart with a home trainer (bicycle ergometer). What can also motivate: During the training you can watch TV or listen to music. In addition, road traffic and the risk of falling are eliminated.
This is what experts recommend for sport in old age:
A total of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of continuous vigorous exercise or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise each week
Adults and older people in particular should also do strength training and balance exercises 2 to 3 times a week.
Sport in old age – what must be considered?
In principle, seniors can pursue almost all sports and also practice their favorite sport from before. Because movement patterns that were learned at a young age can often still be called up at an older age. Anyone who has regularly done their rounds in the park since childhood can therefore still do so now.
However, there are also some types of sports that, if not practiced correctly, can put a lot of strain on the body and joints and often result in injuries. Jogging or ball sports with abrupt stopping movements and short but strong stress phases (e.g. football or handball) are therefore less suitable for untrained seniors. Sports that are easy on the joints and strengthen endurance, coordination and strength in a gentle way are better. It is also important that they are easy to learn and that getting back into them is uncomplicated.
Before the start of training to the doctor
If you suffer from an illness, injury or other medical condition, it may be advisable to first consult your GP to find out if there is anything special you need to consider before starting the exercise. Particular caution is required for some heart diseases.
Sports newcomers should approach this training workload slowly so as not to overtax the heart and joints. The most important measure for seniors who want to start exercising is an examination by a doctor. The Check-up 35, for example, is covered by health insurance every two years from the age of 35.
In addition to the general state of health, the performance of the heart is determined with the help of a stress ECG. The training intensity, the training frequency and the right type of sport for the start of the sport can then be discussed.
Important points and basics for sport in old age:
No matter which sport you choose and which one your doctor recommends, it is important that you take it slow. Your body should be challenged to a certain extent, but never overtaxed!
Listen to your body, if the sport is too strenuous for you and the stress is too high, stop the training. Stay motivated and don’t force yourself into anything.
Only do sport voluntarily and if you enjoy the exercise.
Practice different sports to train different muscle groups. This strengthens the entire body.
Sport in old age with endurance, strength and mobility
The combination of endurance, strength and flexibility make it the ideal sport for seniors. This covers many areas of health. Through the versatile training, you can achieve quick results such as a higher load limit and achieve the strongest training effects. These will also benefit you in everyday life: you will notice that you have more energy and that things that used to cause you trouble will become easier for you.