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ACSM Issues Position Stand on Exercise and Older Adults

by Craig Odar | Aug 01, 2011
Experts recommend physical activity for longevity, preventing chronic conditions

INDIANAPOLIS –  Physical activity – even at a moderate level of intensity – can greatly improve quality and life and longevity for adults over age 65, according to an updated Position Stand from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

The evidence in the manuscript is consistent with the first-ever federal physical activity guidelines, released in October 2008. Writing team member Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, Ph.D., FACSM, says the messages in the Position Stand are direly needed by a population that might view itself as too old to begin a physical activity program.

“It’s never too late to exercise,” Chodzko-Zajko said. “We’re not necessarily expecting older adults to train for a marathon; activities as simple as walking the dog, taking a dance or exercise class, or biking to the store can increase mobility, prevent chronic conditions and diseases, and generally make life much more enjoyable.”

The Position Stand contains the following major conclusions:

  • Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimize the physiological effects of a sedentary lifestyle and increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions.
  • Ideally, exercise for healthy aging should include a combination of aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility exercises.
  • A combination of regular aerobic and resistance training exercises is more effective at combating the effects of the aging process than either form of training alone.
  • Individuals who are at risk for falling or mobility impairment should also perform specific exercises to improve balance.
  • Although higher-intensity training programs are effective, physical activity does not need to be high-intensity to prevent chronic conditions. Exercise must be performed consistently to have lasting benefits. The benefits of a single exercise session are relatively short-lived.

In addition, the Position Stand provides evidence that exercise provides psychological benefits for older adults, including lowered risk of dementia, and helps improve day-to-day functionality.

The Position Stand is an update of a previously produced manuscript of the same title, originally released in 1999. Members of the media can access the updated Position Stand here.

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

NOTE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For additional copies of the research paper (Vol. 41, No. 7, pages 1510-1530) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 127 or 133. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.

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