As we get older, we tend to exercise much less. Time constraints, physical limitations, and chronic health problems lead to the CDC finding that only 38.5% of men and 31.1% of women between the ages of 65 and 74 exercise regularly (meaning at least two and a half hours every week).
The good news is that a little bit is better than nothing. For women over the age of 60, even exercising just one day per week can significantly increase strength and fitness.
A new study from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham compiled data on 63 women performing aerobic exercise training (AET) and resistance exercise training (RET) over a period of 16 weeks. The subjects were divided into groups that performed the exercises once, twice or three times per week.
All women who exercised at least once per week experienced increases in strength and endurance.
“This study demonstrates that doing as little as one AET and one RET workout each week can provide a lot of benefit for older women's overall quality of life and health,” said Gordon Fisher, primary investigator for the study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The CDC recommends that older adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity plus muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days per week. The reason for the greater time commitment? The benefits that physical activity has on other factors linked to chronic disease development, such as obesity, blood pressure, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia.
So while this study does suggest that a little is better than nothing when it comes to fitness, most healthy older adults should aim for the higher end of the spectrum for total health.
Gordon Fisher et al. Frequency of Combined Resistance and Aerobic Training in Older Women. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 2013 - Volume 27 - Issue 7 - p 1868–1876 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31827367e0