The purpose of this Position Stand is to provide an overview of issues critical to understanding the importance of exercise and physical activity in older adult populations. The Position Stand is divided into three sections: Section 1 briefly reviews the structural and functional changes that characterize normal human aging, Section 2 considers the extent to which exercise and physical activity can influence the aging process, and Section 3 summarizes the benefits of both long-term exercise and physical activity and shorter-duration exercise programs on health and functional capacity. Although no amount of physical activity can stop the biological aging process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimize the physiological effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle and increase active life expectancy by limiting the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions. There is also emerging evidence for significant psychological and cognitive benefits accruing from regular exercise participation by older adults. Ideally, exercise prescription for older adults should include aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening exercises, and flexibility exercises. The evidence reviewed in this Position Stand is generally consistent with prior American College of Sports Medicine statements on the types and amounts of physical activity recommended for older adults as well as the recently published 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. All older adults should engage in regular physical activity and avoid an inactive lifestyle.
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