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The 30-Second Consult: Exercise Recommendations for Older Adults

February 12, 2020

By Amanda Zaleski
Exercise Physiologist
Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular InstituteDepartment of Preventive Cardiology

Q: What are the exercise recommendations for older adults?
The American College of Sports Medicine says the optimal exercise prescription for overall health among older adults includes these options:

  • 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five or more days a week.
  • 20-30 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise three or more days a week.
  • An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity exercise to total 150 minutes a week.

Older adults are also encouraged to engage in resistance and flexibility exercise two or more days a week. The great news is that this can be broken down however we want in workouts as short as 10 minutes per day, and it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach.

Even 15 minutes of exercise per week reduces our risk of early death by 15 percent and the benefits continue to pile up with every minute after that in a dose response fashion, meaning the more we do, the more benefits we get.

Q: How do I know if I am walking hard or fast enough if I do not have a heart rate monitor?
A: This is an excellent question with a simple solution called the “talk test”! During light intensity exercise, you will be able to carry on a conversation while walking at this pace. At moderate intensity, you will begin to breathe faster and have some difficulty talking, but still able to carry on a conversation. At vigorous intensity exercise, you will have a very difficult time talking and might only be able to say one or two words at a time. The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion helps gauge how hard you think your body is working. On this scale of 6 to 20, light intensity would be a 9-11, moderate intensity 12-13 and vigorous 14-17.

Amanda Zaleski is an exercise physiologist with the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute’s Department of Preventive CardiologyFor information on your heart and your health, visit the Heart & Vascular Institute here.