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Ask the Experts

Heart healthy exercise for older adults

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Ask the Experts
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Q: What type of exercise is heart healthy and safe for older adults?

A: The best exercise is one that you enjoy and will perform regularly for the rest of your life. Additionally, you should aim to be less sedentary throughout the day. Listen to your body, do not overdo it, and allow yourself time to rest.

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Frequency

For general health-related benefits, aim for at least three sessions per week. More frequent exercise is typically better if your body can recover between exercise sessions.

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Workout components

Allow for at least 10 minutes to warm up, and include gentle dynamic stretches, which involve moving your body while you stretch. Examples include arm swings or circles.

Aerobic (cardio) exercise should be at least 30 minutes in duration, either continuous or accumulated throughout the day, and should be done at a moderate intensity (you can talk but cannot sing).

Strength training is strongly recommended. Aim for a single set of 10 to 15 repetitions to a moderate fatigue level of eight to 10 different exercises incorporating major muscle groups. A progression from this, if appropriate, may produce greater improvements.

Ending with stretches and a minimum five-minute cool-down is strongly recommended.

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Cardiac considerations

For those at risk of cardiac events, aim for a heart rate of 10 or more beats below the heart rate that evokes symptoms. High intensity and stop-and-go exercises (such as interval training or shovelling snow) can be extremely effective, but increase stress on the heart and may not be suitable for those with cardiac issues.

Always consult your health care practitioner before beginning an exercise program. If you have or are at risk of chronic illness, see a registered kinesiologist for a tailored program.

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