Elderly exercise: older adults who are more active

Elderly exercise: how to make older adults more active
© iStock/DaniloAndjus

In two newly published studies, researchers at NTNU’s Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) have identified how to encourage older adults to be more active.

The research determines which kinds of exercise older adults choose and who is most prone to dropping out of an exercise training programme.

Determining the exercise patterns of elderly people

One of the researchers, Line Skarsem Reitlo, said: “The results could be important to help facilitate increasing activity levels in the elderly. Information about what older adults prefer enables us to tailor exercise programmes to appeal to seniors.”

Over 1500 participants between the ages of 70 and 77 were randomly assigned to one of two exercise groups or a control group. The participants in the exercise groups undertook moderate or high intensity training sessions twice a week, mainly alone.

Reitlo added: “We read through a total of 70 000 exercise logs from the first year of the study. It turned out that the participants to a great degree managed to train at the prescribed intensity. This is important to know, because it indicates that older people do not need to be monitored to be able to train at high intensity.”

Participants were asked to fill out exercise logs documenting the following information:

  • How long their workouts lasted;
  • How hard they exercised;
  • What activities they performed;
  •  Where they exercised; and
  • Whether they were training alone or with someone.

Walking was the most popular form of activity in both the moderate and high intensity training groups.

The gender difference between the exercise of older adults

One of the differences between older women and men is exercise intensity. Men tend to train with greater intensity, performing workouts such as jogging, cycling and cross-country skiing while women were more likely to choose dance and walking as activities.

Only 15% of the over 1500 participants quit the programme in the first three years. “Individuals who were physically active for fewer than 30 minutes a day were almost twice as likely to drop out from the study within three years as those who were more physically active. Low grip strength and poor fitness are other characteristics that make elders more likely to discontinue a training programme,” says Reitlo.

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