More exercise news

I recently attended the Research to Action conference hosted by the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging at Western University in London, Ontario.  Part of the CCAA’s mandate is to apply evidence-based principles of exercise research to group fitness classes for older adults.  The conference was well attended, and as usual, there were plenty of opportunities to learn new “tricks of the trade” to enhance my own classes and to network with colleagues from around Canada.

One of the highlights of the conference each year is a synopsis of research findings in the area of physical activity and aging.  Western University’s  Dr. Liza Stathokostas presented a review of the top five research articles within the last year.  The five she cited were:

1. Does stretching provide any significant health benefits?

After exhaustive scholarly reviews of the literature, Dr. Stathokostas concluded that there is no strong relationship between stretching and functional abilities which would allow us to provide recommendations on how long and how often to stretch.  It is strongly advisable not to perform static (or held) stretching before a work-out but rather to do dynamic (or moving) stretching exercises help warm up the joints and prepare them for exercise.  The scope of the scholarly review, however, was for guidelines in the general population and not therapeutic or rehab applications where certain types of stretching are known to be crucial in the healing process.

Reference: Stathokostas, L., et al., “Flexibility Training and Functional Ability in Older Adults: A Systematic Review,” Journal of Aging Research, vol. 2012, Article ID 306818, 30 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/306818

2. Are people more prone to exercise-related injuries as they age?

Based on a paper accepted but not yet published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, older people in general were not necessarily more prone to injuries than younger people.  Across all ages, males were more prone to injury from weight training and more often in weight training machines (vs. free weights).   Four activities in particular had higher rates of injury in older people: golf, bowling, skiing, and cycling.

Reference: American Journal of Sports Medicine, accepted for publication May 2013.

3. What are the best exercise strategies for falls prevention in older adults?

When comparing various types of interventions to prevent falls, such as Tai Chi, in-home assessments, education, gait and balance training, strength training classes, and multiple component classes or home-based programs, Tai Chi was found to be the most effective in reducing the risk of falling, whereas multiple component classes and home-based programs were the most effective in reducing the rate of falls.

Reference: Gillespie, L. et al. Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD007146. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007146.pub3.

4. Can physical activity prevent or improve outcomes for Alzheimer’s Disease sufferers?

Across multiple studies, there was strong evidence for improvement when there was increased physical activity (equivalent to 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week).  In fact the evidence supported aerobic activity over resistance training, although both were found to be effective.

Reference: The Role of Physical Activity in the Prevention and Management of Alzheimer’s Disease—Implications for Ontario- Ontario Brain Institute, February 2012.

5.  Is Prolonged Sitting bad for you?

This area of research has garnered much attention over the years and now there is strong evidence to support limiting the time spent sitting.   Stathokostas and Dogra’s research showed that middle aged and older adults who were the least sedentary (< 2 hours/day) were 43% more likely to age successfully compared to those who were sedentary for 4 or more hours per day.

Reference: Shilpa Dogra and Liza Stathokostas, “Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity Are Independent Predictors of Successful Aging in Middle-Aged and Older Adults,” Journal of Aging Research, vol. 2012, Article ID 190654, 8 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/190654

All and all, the various workshops and presentations provided a wealth of information to fitness professionals like me.  I am looking forward to next year’s Research to Action conference!

Another Canadian University that regularly contributes to research in the field of physical activity and aging is the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  A study, published in May in the on-line journal PLoS ONE looked at 86 women aged 70 to 80 who had some form of mild cognitive impairment.  For six months, researchers studied the participants, who were grouped into various types of  exercise regimens from weight training classes, outdoor walking classes, and balance and tone classes.  The purpose of the study was to see if the participants would make fewer trips to the doctor and require fewer diagnostic and other health-related services.   Specifically, the researchers were interested in which types of exercise classes were most effective in lowering health-care usage.

At the end of the 6-month study, the researchers concluded that those in the resistance training and aerobic training groups had significantly improved cognitive function and  incurred lower health-care usage costs than those who participated in balance and toning classes.

Reference: Davis J.C., et al. (2013) An Economic Evaluation of Resistance Training and Aerobic Training versus Balance and Toning Exercises in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063031

Findings out of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2012

The annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress took place between October 26 and 31 in Toronto this year.  The Toronto Star covered the conference and a number of interesting findings appeared in press releases this past week.

Especially worth a read are how three prominent cardiologists keep their own hearts healthy.

What are the main things they do? It should come as no surprise when they say they…eat a healthy diet and exercise!

Some other interesting findings that were presented at the conference were the positive effects that  exercise had on cognitive function.

And one that I’m sure will garner debate on the pros and cons of the flu vaccine–how getting the flu shot may be good for your heart. 

More on Falls

Last Wednesday The Lancet medical journal reported on the findings of  researchers who studied instances of falls in elderly people residing in 2 BC long-term care (LTC) facilities.  Videos were captured of 130 residents who had fallen to determine the circumstances around the fall.   Of the 227 falls captured on video, 41% were the result of improper weight shifting.  The rest of the falls were attributed to stumbling or tripping (21%), bumping into objects, losing support, and collapsing all tied at  11%, and 3% were a result of slipping.   Surprisingly, more falls were a result of weight transference than what was assumed.  Weight tranference is when the centre of mass is taken outside the base of support.  When we are standing still, our centre of mass is directly over our base of support.  When there is a disturbence in which the centre of mass oves moves outside the base of support, balance is challenged and if balance is lost, a fall can occur.  The researches concluded that by knowing better the circumstances around falls, balance and falls prevention programs can become more targeted and effective.

To your health!



Robinovitch, S. , Feldman, F., and Yang, Y. (2012). Video captre of the circumstances of falls in elderly people residing in long-term care: an observational study, The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 17 October 2012.


Do More Reps Mean More Muscle?

The belief that more weight built more muscle than more repetitions did is being given a second consideration–at least in older men.

Researchers studied 2 groups of 6 young men (avg age 24) and 2 groups of 6 older men (avg age 70) who followed one of two exercise programs.  Half of the young and half of the older participants performed knee extensions using 3 sets of 14 repetitions then 6 sets of 14 repetitions at lower weight while the other half performed the same exercise using 3 sets of 8 repetitions then 6 sets of 8 repetitions at a higher weight.  The total muscle exertion was the same regardless of the number of sets and reps because when the weight was lower, the volume (sets and reps) was higher and vice versa.  Biopsies were taken of the participants’ leg muscles to look for the amount of protein synthesis (which occurs when muscle is being repaired and rebuilt after a work-out).   In the two groups of young men, the amount of muscle growth was not significantly increased when higher repetions or sets were involved, i.e. the higher weight played more of a role than the number of sets/reps.  This was not the case for the older men.  For those two groups, increasing the number of reps  had a greater effect on protein synthesis even when the weight was low.  From a safety standpoint, it is often recommended that older people benefit from lower weight and higher reps but now it may also be the case for muscle growth as well.

To your health!



Kumar, V. , Atherton, P., et al. (2012). Muscle Protein Synthetic Responses to Exercise: Effects of Age, Volume, and Intensity, J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. DOI: 1093/gerona/gls141


Can Nordic Walking increase your strength and cardio fitness?

nordic walkingResearchers in Finland recently studied the effects Nordic walking (or “pole walking”) had on functional capacity in older adults. Functional capacity reflects one’s ability to perform activities of daily living independently. Typical measurements for functional capacity are strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness (or endurance). The study examined whether a Nordic walking program contributed to improvements in these measures as well as walking gait, which plays a vital role along with balance in reducing instances of falls. A compromised walking gait is strongly associated with falls.

Participants were divided into two groups: 23 people were placed in a Nordic walking group and 14 were placed in the control group, which was sedentary. Beyond their current level of physical activity, members of the control group were asked not to participate in any new physical activity for the duration of the 9-week program.

Nordic walking or pole walking is a form of exercise that is very popular in Scandinavian countries and in Finland. In recent years, it has been gaining ground in North America, especially amongst older adults. It is a safe form of cardiovascular exercise, especially for those who like to walk as their main fitness routine. It also has benefits for strength gains, especially in the upper body. It involves walking with a set of poles, much like one would use for cross-country skiing, only participants walk in urban areas– along bike and walking trails, sidewalks, and in some cases, hiking trails (with special tips).

Previous studies have shown increases in heart rate and oxygen uptake, both of which are important for maintaining independence and assisting with activities of daily living (ADL). Most of the previous studies, however, have focused on younger people (middle age) and those with chronic conditions that would be improved with stronger cardiovascular fitness. Studies of Nordic pole walking in older adults are limited, although a previous study (2007) showed Nordic walking to be an appropriate exercise method for older people because it has beneficial cardiovascular benefits. A study such as this is important if improvements are going to be made to the general older adult population’s activity levels. Since walking is the most common leisure-time physical activity chosen by older adults, Nordic pole walking may be such an enhancement that could boost those activity levels. Another purpose of the study was to determine the effects Nordic walking had on the participant’s gait. The researchers hypothesized that a 9-week Nordic walking exercise program would increase functional capacity and improve walking balance in older adults. It generally takes two months for enough physical changes from exercise to show up in a test.

The 37 participants were male and female age 65 and older and the two groups were controlled for equal portion gender and age. The participants were given fitness and gait assessments using a common battery of tests before and after the study’s conclusion, one that I frequently use with my clients, called the Seniors’ Fitness Test (Rickli and Jones, 2001).

The 9-week Nordic walking program consisted of twice weekly hour-long sessions, which included a 5 minute warm up (stretching and slow walking), 40 minutes of Nordic walking with 10-min stretching mid-point, followed by a 5 minute cool-down of slow walking and stretching. For the Nordic walking portion, the participants were instructed to walk as fast as comfortable. Training intensity was based on the participants’ rate of perceived exertion. Participants also wore heart rate monitors during the first exercise session and had a target heart goal of 60% of the age-predicted maximum. The warm up and cool-down consisted of walking at low speed (without the poles) and stretching with the poles. All 23 participants in the Nordic walking group completed the 9-week program although there were some absences during the training period.

At the end of the nine weeks, both groups were re-assessed using the same test battery. Improvements were made across all measures in the Nordic walking group. Hip and leg strength as measured by the Chair Stand Test increased on average by 15.3% in the Nordic walking group whereas there was only a 2.2% increase in the control (sedentary) group. Arm strength as measured by the Arm Curl Test increased on average 19.7% vs. 1.9% in the control group. Other measures of functionality all showed significantly greater increases compared with the control group. The 2-Minute Step Test, which assesses cardiovascular fitness showed an average increase of 14.0% in the Nordic walking group vs. a 2.5% increase in the control group, the “Sit-and-reach” test, which assesses thigh and calf flexibility, showed a 92.5% increase vs. 2.9% increase in the control group. It was thought that the stretching exercises during warm-up and cool-down played a large role in contributing to this large increase in leg flexibility. However, since Nordic walking assumes a large stride length compared to regular walking, the walking pattern itself may have also been a large contributor to the increased flexibility.

The Nordic walking group experienced on average a 17.3% increase in upper body flexibility as measured by the “Back Scratch Test” compared with a 23% DECREASE in the control group. When it came to assessments of balance related capacity, there was only a 10% increase in the Nordic walking group as measured by the “Timed Up and Go” Test (a measure of dynamic balance) but there was no change observed in the control group. However, the results of the gait analysis tests, which measured ground-reaction forces (GRF) and walking speed, were disappointing. They showed no change in either group. Researchers had hoped to find an improvement in gait as a result of the pole walking program but any falls reduction benefit resulting from muscular strength increases may have been countered by reliance on the poles themselves as balance aids.

There were some limitations in the study. Because of early drop-out in a third group (a regular walking group), there were insufficient numbers to study them separately so they were combined with the Nordic walking group. Thus the test group was much larger than the control group (23 vs. 14). It also means that comparisons between the test group and the control group do not necessarily suggest that improvements were a result of Nordic walking in particular or regular walking in general which caused the greatest change. However, Nordic walking does require engagement of upper and lower body muscles that is not required with regular walking. As well, previous studies which compared Nordic walking with regular walking showed an increase in cardiovascular function, although these were done with a younger population. So there is no reason not to credit a portion of the cardiovascular increase to the Nordic walking program specifically. The cardiovascular benefits may have been the result of strength increases in upper body muscles, which improve lung functional capacity, circulation, and oxygen uptake, the researchers said.

Although no significant improvements in gait were corroborated by the exercise program, muscular strength, flexibility, cardiovascular capacity, and to an extent dynamic balance were all improved in the Nordic walking group after the 9-week program. It is safe to say that based on this study Nordic walking is a useful tool in an activity tool kit to keep vital and strong as one ages. Perhaps it is an exercise you’ll pick up and enjoy. It’s worth a try!

To your health,



Parkatti, T, Perttunen, J, and Wacker, P. (2012). Improvements in Functional Capacity from Nordic Walking: A Randomized Controlled Trial Among Older Adults, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 20 (1), 93-105.

I’d be a lot healthier if I only had the time!

clockA recent survey from the Heart & Stroke Foundation (HSFC) reported that a large number of Canadians say they do not have time to exercise regularly or eat healthy foods, both strong tools in the prevention of heart disease and stroke.

According to the survey, eighty percent of Canadians know that heart disease and stroke can largely be prevented, postponed, and even treated by living a healthier lifestyle and 75% say they would live a healthier life if it weren’t for a number of barriers. The biggest barrier cited is time.

According to the HSFC report, for some of these barriers, it may be more a matter of perception than reality. Let’s take a look at what they had to say:

No time because of a long commute: This is a tough one as it is well-known that commute times have grown longer over the years and this is especially the case in Canada’s large urban centres. However, commute times are often half as long in smaller cities and towns and yet those residents are not necessarily any more active. In fact obesity rates are higher in Canada’s smaller towns and rural areas, on average, than in the big cities.

No time because of family obligations: Driving the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons, taking care of a loved one, visiting aging parents, school involvement, helping kids with homework. These things all take time and are all a part of busy modern life. But let’s not forget some of the modern conveniences that have freed up time. For many, the internet has allowed them to shop and do banking online, stay in touch with friends and family through email and Facebook, get help with homework or research a paper, and a whole host of other activities that used to take much longer when one had to get up and go somewhere. And yet, spare time still seems to be a rare commodity, keeping us from doing things that will help prevent heart disease and stroke. So where is that time going if it’s not spent exercising or cooking a heart-healthy meal? HSFC cites Statistics Canada in reporting that about 30% of Canadian adults spend 2 or more hours a day watching television with half those people reporting they spend over 20 hours a week in front of the box. And what about that other box? 15% of Canadian adults report spending 90 minutes or more each day in front of their computers–and that’s not during work time!

So, clearly extra time is there for many of us. We just have to make healthy eating and physical activity priorities in our lives.

Some other barriers cited in the survey:

Lack of facilities: 25 % of the respondents to the HSFC survey cited this as a barrier.

Cost of exercise programs, too, was a factor cited.

But in both these cases, one doesn’t necessarily need access to a gym or community centre to be active. As long as there are well-maintained parks and safe streets to walk, many Canadians can take advantage of the cheapest form of exercise–a brisk walk or hike! Walking briskly can get your heart and lungs working more efficiently so that you reap the benefits–major benefits in the fight against heart disease and stroke!

Cost of healthy food: Income and location are major factors for many Canadians who would otherwise shop for better food to cook. This is a real problem for low-income Canadians who can not afford fresh fruits and vegetables and many Canadians live in areas where access to such food is limited. The HFSC urges government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to increase access to healthy food for Canadians who can not afford it or who do not live close to sources of healthy food.

Lack of motivation: Half of the HSFC survey respondents say they lack the motivation to be more active or eat healthier food. HSFC reminds us that even small steps count and suggests some practical things that can be done, such as meal planning, having some quick and easy healthy food in your cupboard, and making meals in advance on weekends. As for exercise, get out with a friend for a walk. As they say, “you don’t need to run a marathon–but you do have to get off the couch”.

For more on the HSFC survey and to learn more about their initiatives, see their new campaign at The Foundation has set an ambitious goal of reducing death from heart disease and stroke by 25% by 2020. Clearly Canadians get the message that heart disease and stroke can largely be prevented or at least assisted through diet and exercise. They just need help to find the time to do so.

To your health,


Can you be fit and fat?

measuring one's bellyJust released in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a new study shows that overweight or obese people may not necessarily be considered unfit because they have a high weight to height ratio (commonly called the BMI or Body Mass Index). To be considered overweight, one must have a BMI greater than 25. To be considered obese, the number must be greater than 30.

Researchers at the University of Alberta analyzed data from over 8000 participants of the National Health and Human Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and conducted follow-up studies to determine death rates. Of those considered overweight or obese, they applied the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS) to determine if early death rates could be predicted based on high scores. Although it makes use of traditional body measurement tools such as BMI and hip to waist ratios, the Staging System goes beyond that by including other obesity related health factors which then rank the person on one of five stages of risk. Stage 0 means there are no health problems despite being overweight whereas someone in stage 4 would have severe diseases associated with obesity that put them at risk for early death.

The researchers determined that for the overweight and obese respondents to the survey, about 77% had a score of 1 or 2. Scores of 2 were associated with higher death rate versus scores of 0 or 1. A score of 1 translates to the presence of obesity-related risk factors, such as high blood pressure and elevated fasting blood sugar levels but at borderline levels, shortness of breath for moderate exertion, some aches and pains, and mild functional limitations. A score of 2 translates to the presence of chronic diseases clearly associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis, and moderate limitation in activities of daily living. Death rates were not any higher for overweight and obese people over the 16 years of study for those rating 0 on the EOSS and only slightly higher for those who scored 1. But for those scoring 2 or more, there was a marked increase in death rate with only 50 to 70 % survival rate compared with those who scored 0. So, regardless of obesity level, it was the score on the EOSS that was the greater predictor of early death.

In another study published recently in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 5400 men and 770 women who had BMIs of 30 or more (i.e. obese) were scored on the EOSS and were compared with 23,000 normal weight people also over a 16 year period. The lead researcher of this study, Prof. Jennifer Kuk at York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies in Toronto, found that people in Stages 2 and 3 were at high risk of developing coronary heart disease but those in stages 0 and 1 were not. This study used a modified EOSS which excluded Stage 4. Surprisingly those obese people in stages 0 and 1 were at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease than normal-weight individuals but all obese patients were at an higher risk for death due to cancer but not for death caused by other factors besides cancer or heart related. Based on her data, Kuk suggests that up to one third of the 6000 people could be considered “healthy obese” based on her examination of the data. Being overweight by age 21, having low cardiovascular fitness, smoking status, and eating few fruits and vegetables were all associated with Stages 2 and 3. To be considered “healthy obese”, Kuk says, people must lead a healthy lifestyle, follow a good diet, and get regular exercise. Otherwise, these factors along with their obesity will put them at greater risk of early death.

This also shifts the focus away from an obsession with weight loss, especially for those who get caught in a viscous cycle of dieting, toward becoming healthier through a healthy diet, lifestyle, and regular physical activity.


Use it or Lose it!

Senior couple on cycle rideWe all like holidays. Not only is it good to take a break from work, home, or the winter weather, but it’s good to give yourself a break from routine. However, what happens when you have been working out regularly for about 4 months and then take a month off from your exercise routine? You might be surprised to find out!

Researchers in Queensland, Australia designed a 20-week study of men in their 70s to determine just that. Studies have shown for years the positive effects of resistance training on muscle strength and power. (Musclestrength is used when you try to lift a heavy box. Muscle power is when you run up a flight of stairs as fast as you can.) Numerous studies have also shown the positive effects of aerobic training on cardio-vascular fitness. But instead of resistance training, this study set out to determine if a particular type of aerobic exercise could also benefit thigh muscle strength and power. They used a cycle ergometer, which is an exercise bicycle where the resistance can be controlled.

Here’s how the study worked:

The scientists measured the fitness of 24 men in their 70s. Then the men were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group followed an aerobic exercise program of increasing intensity. The other group (the “control” group) did no formal exercise. The fitness of all 24 men was measured every four weeks, and then four weeks after the training program ended.

Here’s what they found out:

In the first 8 weeks of training, the men in the exercise group showed no significant change in thigh strength. However by the end of 12 weeks, there was a significant increase and by the end of the training period their strength was up an average of 21%. Their thigh muscle power and aerobic capacity (how efficiently the body uses oxygen) increased continuously throughout the training. Plus, they lost fat and gained lean muscle mass in the thigh.

As expected the control group showed no change, except for a slight decrease in muscle power — not surprising, since people in their 70s can lose 5% of their muscle power per year.

But what happened to the men in the exercise group when they stopped exercising?

What a difference a month makes…

After 4 weeks of no exercise, their thigh muscle strength decreased to the levels shown at week 8 of the exercise program. Their muscle power decreased the most, ending up even lower than at the start of the study. Body composition (proportion of fat and muscle) returned to pre-training levels. Aerobic capacity also went down, but still remained well above the pre-training levels even 4 weeks after exercise stopped. This was unexpected by the researchers.

How does this apply to me?

Whether you’re a man or a woman in your 70s, older or younger, this study shows that one type of aerobic exercise can provide a host of improvements to your strength, power, aerobic capacity, and body composition. But you have to keep at it — if you stop exercising for a month, you will lose most of your hard-earned gains.

So, the message is keep your holidays from exercise short. Keep what you’ve gained after all that hard work. Use it or lose it! Sure, take a little break now and again but don’t wait too long before getting back on track!

To your health,



Lovell, D., Cuneo, R, and Gass, G. (2010). Can Aerobic Training Improve Muscle Strength and Power in Older Men? Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 18, 14-26.
Spriduso, W. (2005). Physical Dimensions of Aging. 2005. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Home-based Diet and Exercise Interventions Improve Functional Outcomes Among Older, Overweight Long-term Cancer Survivors

Weights and fresh fruitResearchers at Duke University in North Carolina published results of a two year study of 641 overweight long-term survivors of colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer to determine if tailored telephone counseling and mailed out printed material promoting exercise, healthy diet, and modest weight loss would have a positive effect on the functional outcome of those survivors. The group was split into an intervention group or 319 participants who received the home-based program and a control group of 322 who received the material only after the intervention period of 12 months. The participants ranged in age from 65 to 91 and were recruited from Canada, U.K. and the U.S.

Outcomes were determined from a number of scales including a self-reported Physical Function questionnaire and the Late Life Function and Disability Index (measuring changes in lower body functionality) both of which are scored from 0 to 100. Higher scores on these two scales indicated better functionality. As well, measures of physical activity, body mass index, and overall health-related quality of life were taken.

The results of the study showed a slower decline in functionality over the 12 months in the intervention group by more than half (-2.15 compared to -4.84). Although there was only a slight improvement in lower extremity function in the intervention group as a whole (+0.34), there was a marked level of decline in functionality in the control group (-1.89). Physical activity, dietary behaviours, and overall quality of life increased significantly in the intervention group compared with the control group. There was also a marked difference in weight loss on average between the two groups (loss of 2.06 kg in the intervention group vs. 0.92 kg in the control group).

This study has shown a reduced rate of decline and improvement in other health markers in a group who received individualized counseling and targeted printed material. Considering that cancer survivors are at a greater risk for subsequent malignancies, other related illnesses, and a higher rate of functional decline than the general population, the results of this study could indeed have a positive impact on this trend.

To your health,



Morey, M.C., Snyder, D.C., Sloane, R.S., et al. (2009). Effects of Home-Based Diet and Exercise on Functional Outcomes Among Older, Overweight Long-term Cancer Survivors. Journal of the American Medical Association, 301 (18), 1883-1891.

Usefulness of Accelerometers for Assessing Physical Activity

Accelerometers are tools kinesiologists and exercise physiologists use to objectively monitor physical activity in individuals. This has generally been done with children and younger people with little attention given to older adults. A group of researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta used accelerometers on 38 participants (15 males, 18 females) aged between 66 and 72 years to come up with a profile of older adult physical activity levels. They found that average time spent in light activity was the same for both males and females (just under 14 hours) but women spent less time being sedentary (7.4 hrs vs. 8.9 hrs). They also determined that the number of minutes spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity was greater in men (75 min vs. 60 min), however, the number of minutes spent in sporadic activity (bouts of under 10 minutes) was about the same (approx. 50 minutes).

Short bouts (10-19 min) and longer bouts (>20 minutes) have previously been shown to have the best cardio-vascular health benefits. For both genders, longer bouts of activity occurred in the morning and in general, more time spent in low-intensity physical activity increased with age. Thus, the researchers concluded that interventions targeted at older adults should be aimed at increasing time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity and decreasing time spent being sedentary.

To your health,



Copeland, J.L., Esliger, D.W. (2009). Accelerometer Assessment of Physical Activity in Active, Healthy Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 17(1), 17-30.