Intensity Versus Consistency: The Real Impact of Exercise on Older Adults’ Cardiorespiratory Health
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis has challenged the widely held belief that high-intensity exercise is superior for older adults, highlighting that the consistency of regular aerobic exercise may hold the key to improved cardiorespiratory fitness in this demographic.
Aerobic Exercise: A Heart-Healthy Choice
According to the American Heart Association, older adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. This regular exercise, whether it be walking or running, has numerous benefits for heart health. Improved circulation within the heart and throughout the cardiovascular system, reduction in cardiovascular risk, and improved metabolic rate are just a few advantages. This type of exercise also promotes fat burning, increases lean muscle mass, and reduces visceral fat. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which can improve mood, reduce stress levels, and lower the risk of anxiety disorders and depression.
High Intensity vs. Moderate Intensity: The Verdict
The systematic review and meta-analysis in question aimed to compare the effects of moderate and high-intensity aerobic exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness in older adults. The study included 23 RCTs with 1332 older adults, divided into moderate-intensity and high-intensity groups. The findings challenge the notion that high-intensity exercise is inherently superior, showing that regular aerobic exercise, irrespective of the specific approach and intensity, provides primary benefits to cardiorespiratory fitness in older adults.
Virtual Exercise: A New Reality
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the potential of digital transformation in terms of physical exercise. With the challenges of providing in-person care, alternative ways of medical assistance and supervision have emerged, including virtual environments for exercise. The promotion of various sports activities online has provided employers with the possibility for the long-term implementation of innovative programs to promote employees’ physical activity.
Exercise Variety for Heart Health
Aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching all contribute to better heart and blood vessel function. The 2018 Physical Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, along with strength training two to three times per week. Stretching is also important to maintain strong, supple muscles and to avoid injury, and exercises like yoga and tai chi are highly recommended.
The Importance of Regular Physical Activity
Regular aerobic exercise is crucial for older adults to maintain cardiorespiratory fitness. Various activities, including cardiovascular training, strength training, and balance training, are important to promote longevity and reduce the risk of serious health issues. Balance training is particularly important to reduce the risk of falls and injury. Strength training is essential for maintaining muscle and overall health as we age. Research shows that participants who perform moderate physical activity have a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.