"The fitter and more active you become, the longer you'll live and less heart disease you'll have," says Dr. Aaron Baggish, a cardiologist and fitness expert at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
He suggests that people first start exercising by moving whenever possible, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Next, he asks his patients to identify times during the day they can exercise and what resources they have at their disposal. For example, does their workplace or senior center have a fitness facility, or do they have access to a safe place to walk, no matter the weather?
People in the 60- to 80-year-old age group should spend 80% of their workout doing moderate aerobic activity. That can be anything from brisk walking, cycling, or dancing, to a Zumba class. For the remaining 20% of the time, it's a good idea to focus on strength training. This can be done at a gym but can also be done at home - no weights needed. Try squats, push-ups, and arm reaches. Work toward a goal of exercising for one hour, five times a week.
For those with no particular health concerns, a program of moderate walking and strength training is a safe way to go. Those who have heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or other muscle or bone problems should talk to a doctor before starting. Take it easy at first, and ramp up to a more intense level gradually. "Most of all, remember that something is better than nothing and there is no age when it's too late to start," says Dr. Baggish.
Read the full-length article: "The best heart-healthy workouts for your 60s, 70s, and 80s"
Also in the April 2014 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter:
- Think FAST to remember the warning signs of a stroke
- Take nitroglycerin to ease - and avoid - a common heart disease symptom
- The diabetes-heart disease connection
The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).
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