The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recently revised their recommendations for exercise to improve and maintain fitness in health adults. The Position Stand, “Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise,” provides scientifically-based recommendations for all adults, including older adults, to improve physical fitness and health. The Journal of Active Aging recently published a summary of the updated position stand, co-authored by Drs. Nicole Rogers and Michael Rogers of Wichita State University.
Based on the Position Stand, Dr. Rogers recommends a well-rounded exercise program consisting of 4 components: cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor (balance) exercises.
Cardiorespiratory exercises include aerobic activities. The Position Stand recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise over a week, which can be broken down into smaller durations such as 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise should be enjoyable and performed at a level of 5 to 6 on a 10 point exertion scale. These activities may include walking, bicycling, swimming, or other activities that increase heart rate and respiration.
Resistance exercises can be performed with body weight, free weights, machines, or Thera-Band® exercise bands and tubing. According to Dr. Rogers, important muscle groups to exercise include the biceps, abdominals, low back, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Many studies have shown that Thera-Band resistance exercises can significantly increase strength in older adults. The ACSM recommends that resistance exercises should be performed 2 to 3 days per week with 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, or 1 to 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions at a moderate intensity. The Thera-Band RISE scale can be used to determine the appropriate resistance training intensity with Thera-Band elastic bands and tubing. (Find Thera-Band exercises for older adults here)
Flexibility exercises should be performed twice a week. Static stretches of muscle groups in the shoulder, neck, chest, trunk, lower back, hips, thighs and ankles should be held 30 to 60 seconds and repeated 2 to 4 times. The ACSM now recommends both static and “PNF” (contract-relax) stretching techniques. The Thera-Band Stretch Strap can be used for both static and PNF stretching. A recent study showed that contract-relax stretching with the Thera-Band Stretch Strap is as effective as partner-assisted stretching, but without the need of a partner. PNF stretches should be held for 3 to 6 second sub-maximal contraction, followed by a 10 to 30 second stretch.
Neuromotor exercises are the most significant revision to the ACSM’s Position Stand. These types of “functional fitness” exercises can improve balance, strength, and gait, all of which are important to reduce the risk of falls. While the dose-response of balance training is not well-established in older adults, the ACSM recommends that neuromuscular exercises be performed 2 days per week for 20 to 60 minutes. Yoga and Tai Chi are popular types of group exercise to improve balance, but older adults can also improve their balance with specific balance training exercises in an individualized program. Thera-Band Stability Trainers have been shown effective at improving balance and reducing falls in older adults.
Thera-Band products provide numerous solutions for older adult exercise programs. The First Step to Active Health® program was developed as an all-inclusive exercise, individualized exercise kit that includes a well-rounded program targeted to older adults. In addition to full-color exercise instructions featuring older adults, the First Step to Active Health kit includes a red Thera-Band exercise band. The instruction manual includes behavioral change strategies such as goal-setting and an exercise log.
REFERENCE: Rogers N, Rogers M. Exercise recommendations for older adults: an update. J Active Aging. 2012.March/April. Pp. 40-48.