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Achieve fitness goals in short bursts

July 9, 2013

Exercise and healthy aging go hand in hand, but for some older adults, accumulating the 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may seem like a daunting task. A busy schedule of volunteering, travel or continuing education can get in the way, but results of a new study from Canada's Queen's University should come as a bit of good news. Researchers, who published their findings in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, discovered that the total amount of weekly exercise - not the frequency - is what matters the most, according to findings published in the journal.

Any bit helps 
The findings are based on an analysis of the activity levels of more than 2,200 adults. Researchers relied on devices known as accelerometers to measure how much movement the participants got each day. After separating subjects into three groups based on whether they reached the 150-minute threshold, whether they were active five to seven days a week or if they had low levels of activity, the team noticed as long as the 150-minute level was met, it didn't matter how often the participants were active.

"The important message is that adults should aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes of weekly physical activity in whatever pattern that works for their schedule," said Dr. Ian Janssen, the study's leader.

Study findings confirm CDC advice
Janssen's results echo recommendations from the CDC. In laying out their physical activity guidelines for adults 65 and older, the organization pointed out that the 150-minute mark does not have to be met all at once. Specifically, they said that even as little as 10-minute bursts of exercise several times throughout the day can be enough to enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. So even if you are managing arthritis pain, have a busy schedule or are recovering from an injury or surgery, it's possible to stay active.

More than walking can help
There are a wide variety of options available to help seniors stay fit. According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching and flexibility may be just as important as aerobic exercise. In addition to helping prevent injury, such activities can improve both balance and stability, which can help seniors avoid falls.