alzheimer's care

Exercise for Independence

Media Contact: Assisting Angels Home Care
Brenda Critell
208-344-7979 Boise
208-466-0733 Nampa

Exercise for Independence

Encourage Seniors to Step Up Strength to Remain Independent

(Boise – August 01, 2008) – The National Institute on Aging (NIA) indicates that an inactive lifestyle can cause older people to lose ground in four important areas for staying healthy and independent: strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. According to the NIA, staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent and delay many diseases and disabilities. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have age-related diseases.

While current technologically advanced culture tends to promote a sedentary lifestyle, it is never too late for anyone to benefit from physical activity.  This month ASSISTING ANGELS HOME CARE is encouraging caregivers and family members of seniors in our community to step it up – literally!

Strength is central to daily function, especially in the very elderly. Strength exercises build muscle, increase metabolism and keep weight and blood sugar in check. Muscle strength declines by 15 percent per decade after age 50 and 30 percent per decade after age 70. However, resistance training can result in strength gains. Muscle soreness lasting a few days and slight fatigue are normal after muscle building exercises, although exhaustion, sore joints and painful muscle pulls are not.

Balance exercises help the elderly stay independent by building leg muscles and helping to prevent falls. Tai Chi, a form of Chinese martial arts, may help improve balance and avoid falls that can potentially break hips and other bones.

Stretching exercises provide more flexibility and freedom of movement, although stretching exercises alone will not improve endurance or strength. Be sure to always warm up before stretching by doing endurance or strength exercises or by some easy walking or arm-pumping. Stretching should never cause pain, although mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal.

Endurance exercises, such as walking, jogging or swimming, increase the heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Build up endurance gradually, starting with as little as five minutes of endurance activities at a time. To ensure safety, be sure to stretch after your activities when your muscles are warm, as well as drink plenty of water and dress appropriately for the temperature/environment.

As endurance is built up gradually, there are more activities that appeal to the average older adult. These include walking briskly on a level surface, swimming, gardening, mowing and raking, and cycling on a stationary bike or regular bicycle.

There are certain activities that are considered vigorous and are not recommended for people who have been inactive for a long time or who have certain health risks. These activities include climbing stairs or hills, shoveling snow, brisk bicycling up hills and digging holes.

No matter what, remember that any sort of exercise will be ineffective if it is not executed safely. If a movement causes pain, always stop. In addition, a person should consult his or her physician if exercise results in:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Cold sweats
  • Extreme breathlessness
  • Very rapid heart rate that lasts longer than five to 10 minutes after stopping activity

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) believes motivating patients to exercise is best achieved by focusing on individual patient goals, concerns and barriers to exercise. Exercises routines that are straightforward and fun, while geared toward a person’s individual health needs, beliefs and goals, have a better chance of being successful. Setting goals, identifying and overcoming obstacles, recruiting support and providing positive reinforcement are also key to successful compliance with long-term exercise.

The AAFT has identified specific barriers common to exercise in older adults. Although habit is the single best predictor of inactivity across all age groups, other barriers include:

Barrier Approach
Self-efficacy Begin slowly with exercises that are easily accomplished; advance gradually; provide frequent encouragement.
Attitude Promote positive personal benefits of exercise; identify enjoyable activities.
Discomfort Vary intensity and range of exercise; employ cross-training; start slowly; avoid overdoing.
Disability Specialized exercises; consider personal trainer or physical therapist.
Poor balance Assistive devices can increase safety as well as increase exercise intensity.
Fear of injury Balance and strength training initially; use of appropriate clothing, equipment, and supervision; start slowly.
Habit Incorporate into daily routine; repeat encouragement; promote active lifestyle.*
Subjective norms Identify and recruit influential others; education of patient and influential family/friends.
Fixed income Walking and other simple exercises; use of household items; promote active lifestyle.
Inclement weather Walk in the mall; use senior centers; promote active lifestyle
Cognitive decline Incorporate into daily routine; keep exercises simple.
Illness/fatigue Use a range of exercises/intensities that patients can match to their varying energy level.
*Examples of an active lifestyle include using a golf pull cart while golfing, using a push mower, participating in activities such as stand and cast fishing or gardening, and taking the stairs.

People of all ages, particularly those in geriatric populations, can participate in regular exercise which will eventually result in a safer and better quality of life. Exercise can also provide benefits for caregivers. It is a leading strategy to ward off or cope with caregiver burnout.

ASSISTING ANGELS HOME CARE offers help and assistance for individuals who wish to improve their quality of life by incorporating more physical activity into their daily routines, as well as advice and guidance for friends and family who serve as caregivers. We urge the public to become educated about how exercise can increase independence for the elderly and offer ourselves as a helpful resource for all who wish to learn more.


ASSISTING ANGELS HOME CARE is located in Idaho and is a locally owned and operated business serving the entire Treasure Valley. It was founded in 2006 and its mission is to provide the highest quality home care and personal care service available.  We believe the care we provide enables our clients to live with as much independence and dignity as their condition allows, providing peace of mind to our clients and their families.  We will offer these services efficiently, and compassionately. We will provide these services in many settings including homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals or wherever our clients reside.

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