It is usually difficult to motivate older people to exerciseregularly. Insistence on extensive screening suggests thatphysical activity is dangerous, and creates additional barriers ofcost and time which reduce the likelihood that an intention toexercise will result in active exercise behavior. In fact, theinterpretation of exercise ECGs is very difficult in many elderlypersons, and there is little evidence that either a clinicalevaluation or a stress electrocardiogram can detect those who willhave an adverse exercise outcome. Moreover, the person whobegins an exercise program is at a lower overall risk of sudden deaththan a sedentary peer, and perhaps because of a less ambitiousattitude toward exercise, the relative risks of physical activity(deaths when exercising vs deaths when sedentary) decrease ratherthan increase as a person becomes older. Finally, if awell-loved form of exercise does provoke sudden death in an80-year-old, this is a more pleasant end than many alternative waysof dying.
It is a simple phrase, but “something is better than nothing” pretty much encompasses all you need to know about exercise for older people. Many older people avoid exercise altogether because they cannot run on treadmills or do an aerobics class, but that does not mean that they cannot do any form of exercise. The US government recommendations for exercise for older people recommend that they perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week or else they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow. You don’t need to be running like Usain Bolt on a treadmill: for example, a little moderate speed-walking (enough to get your heart-rate up) and perhaps playing with some light free weights while watching the TV can make all the difference. You may actually be surprised at what you can achieve. While you can start out gentle, you might find that soon you could work up to running, cycling, or even playing a sport.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s good old human nature at work when you wonder why old people avoid exercise when they need it most. It begins when people avoid what’s hard for them, writes Juan in an e-mail interview.