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Paige Waehner

Fit Fact: Vigorous Exercise Helps Seniors Avoid Disability

By July 24, 2009

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Most of us have probably met an energetic older adult and thought: "Man, I hope I'm that fit and healthy when I get older." I know I think that whenever I see one of my neighbors, a 70-something year old man who looks 50 and walks every day, regardless of the weather.

This is something we can all strive for because, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, participants in the study (some 800 older adults aged 50-72) who exercised at least 60 minutes a week were less prone to disability.

It's not surprising that exercise can help us age with more energy and vigor, but it's something many of us don't think about when we're young. Exercise is a critical tool for keeping our weight in check but, as we get older, what becomes even more important is keeping that daily functionality.

I've had clients who say they're too old for vigorous exercise but I'm always amazed at the progress these clients make once they get started. What about you? If you're an older adult, how does exercise keep you going day after day? Leave us a comment and inspire us to keep moving.

More Resources for Seniors


Bruce, Bonnie, et al. Regular Vigorous Physical Activity and Disability Development in Healthy Overweight and Normal-Weight Seniors: A 13-Year Study. American Journal of Public Health. July 2008, Vol 98, No. 7, 1294-1299.

July 24, 2009 at 9:51 am
(1) Jim Taylor says:

I just turned 65. I have been walking, stretching and doing balance exercises for a couple of years (see the book “Fitness over Forty”).

Two months ago I had a disk herniate and a couple of days of severe pain. The pain went away and left numbness. I am now almost back to where I was. The doc’s and physical therapist said that my quick recovery was because I exercised,

July 24, 2009 at 10:19 am
(2) Hyacinth says:

I never exercised when I was young; so it finally came to the point where the Doctor said “Okay what kind of old person do you want to be?” My health was in serious decline. I started cardio, strength training with free weights and flexibility training.
Within 3 years my health was completely restored and I lost 80 pounds.

July 24, 2009 at 10:47 am
(3) Clinton Walker III says:

Exercise is essential for your body especially the older you get. It is not just the age that slows people down, its the inactivity. I have seen several 70 year olds that are strong and just as healthy as 30 year olds when they are healthy.

July 24, 2009 at 7:01 pm
(4) jai55 says:

Exercise should be a intregal part of your
daily routine. Having recently been laid off,
its a blessing to be able to workout every
day in between my job search activities.
Whether if it’s just a ten minute streching
session or a hour of cardio and strength
training, it all counts when it comes to health and well being.
Never take things for granted, leverage your
future wellness.

July 25, 2009 at 1:21 am
(5) Fitness fan says:

On the plus side, thereís no statute of limitations on how old one is at starting up an exercise program, ie, exercise will have positive benefits regardless of the age at startup. The thing is to initiate a program of healthy diet and regular exercise when it is an individualís choice, not necessitated by a life-changing event (heart attack/stroke), a time when recovery/recuperation is the priority. Moreover, avoid the potentially permanent damage that may result from such a catastrophic event.

Doing ordinary chores such as housework and yard work will also contribute to oneís physical health. Iím convinced there is a mental health benefit in addition to the physical. The improved blood flow/respiratory function will help maintain mental capacity. In addition, I tend to let things go Iím pre-occupied with when Iím busy on a task. I think it helps not losing sleep over things, since Iím normally letting go of worries on a regular basis, rather than the constant obsession with things that are beyond my control.

July 25, 2009 at 5:39 pm
(6) Tom says:

I will be 67 in Oct and I walk 4 miles 4-5 times a week and also spend a hour on my Wii Fit doing Yoga and Strength training. Had Triple by-pass in and three stints in 2004, I also fight with Type II diabetes. when I had my by-pass surgery on a Fri morning I was home Monday afternoon. Doc said it was because of my walking daily.

July 25, 2009 at 10:11 pm
(7) Michael Murphy says:

Hi, I am sure exercise keeps ME Fit and Ready

To do the things I enjoy.

I ride my bicycle almost every day from 30 ti 70 Miles. I often ride with a heart rate above 165 bpm. If I can do it so can you. I a not an athlete, started high intensity bicycle riding the day I retired. It is never too late to start. Michael

July 26, 2009 at 1:23 am
(8) Scott says:

I have had the pleasure of training many clients in their 60′s and 70′s who were able to drastically increase their quality of life with proper, sometimes aggressive exercise. Congratulations to all of you who take the time to take care of yourselves!

July 26, 2009 at 7:26 am
(9) Len C says:

I’ll be 57 in a few days but 5 years ago I was feeling like I was 75. Everyone was convinced I was a canidate for lower back surgery but that scared the heck out of me just thinking about it. My last chance as far as I was concerned was a flexibility class offered free at the local gym. Within 3 weeks I was starting to feel a whole lot different as I was able to do routine movements w/o pain. I liked that feeling. Now I hit the gym 3 times a week with daily walks for my 2 Siberian Huskies of 30-60 minutes each day. Rain or shine, hot or cold. Once in a while I’ll think this is a grind but all I have to do is think back to what I was like in 2004, nothing like a “been there done that” to keep myself fit.

July 27, 2009 at 7:40 am
(10) RFS 75 says:

I started 2 years ago at age 73 at the “Y” on a treadmill and lifting weights 3 days a week. Now I am up to 6 days a week on the elliptical and doing yoga and lifting weights.My balance is great,my flexibility has greatly improved, strength is over the top,I’ve lost 25 pounds, and my herniated disc no longer bothers me. My 75 year old buddies think I am 10 years younger than they are. I feel great..go to the “Y”!!!!

July 29, 2009 at 8:46 pm
(11) Kevin S. says:

The only thing that I am intimidated by at the gym is the price of admission.

July 30, 2009 at 9:27 pm
(12) Kim says:

At almost 51 years old I am more fit than I was at 25 I have always been athletic and this did lead to two minor knee surgeries in my forties to recover from that I really kicked up my strength training. Now I actually became certified to teach aerobics last year. So yes we can grow old with grace and strength and exercise is the key to that at any age…

April 19, 2011 at 10:41 am
(13) sharaf says:

i’ve been training all ladies who are middle age and almost reached their 50′s.. when i started training them… i dint expect i would get such good results with them… they’ve build up amazing flexibility and stamina… and i give their examples to the teens who come to me . practice indeed makes individual strong… where age does’nt matter.

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