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Cardiovascular Exercise and Weight Training for the Elderly

Cardiovascular Exercise and Weight Training for the ElderlyExercise is well known for its health benefits, especially as one gets older. It helps with weight control thereby reducing the risk of developing several diseases, improves cardiovascular functioning, aids with muscle mass and bone strength and also has psychological benefits. These are just some of the main advantages of regular exercise in the elderly and is equally effective for younger people. Unfortunately many people only consider exercise as a regular activity with advancing age, taking the health in youth for granted. The question that often comes up is whether one should opt for cardiovascular or weight training exercises. In order to distinguish between these forms of physical activity, it is important to first understand the meaning of cardiovascular and weight training exercises.

What is cardiovascular exercise?

The term cardiovascular exercise refers to physical activity where the oxygen and blood circulating functions of the body are substantially raised above the norm for a period of time. The body’s metabolism is essentially the process of producing energy by burning fuel (food) which also needs oxygen to be present. Cardiovascular exercise simply means that the heart and lungs have to work harder and faster to cater for the increased energy needs of the body. Since this type of activity requires greater oxygen utilization, it is also referred to as aerobic exercise. Common activities that fall under this category includes brisk walking, jogging, running, and swimming.

What is weight training?

Weight training is the use of resistance in body movement with the intention of increasing strength. It is should more correctly be referred to as strength training but since weights are often used to achieve the desired effect, it is referred to as weight training. The other types of strength training that has the same effects is resistance training. Weight training increases the muscle mass and muscle endurance to function even in the absence of an increased oxygen supply (anaerobic). The resistance may be in the form of heavy weights thereby depending on gravity for the force, elastic or tension bands or hydraulic force. Common activities include free weights and exercising on resistance training machines.

Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise and Weight Training

It is important to remember that no exercise is solely cardiovascular or strength training. Cardiovascular workouts may has some element of strength training and vice versa. Both types of physical activity are beneficial in several respects including :

  • Weight loss
  • Cardiovascular function
  • Immune activity
  • Energy levels
  • Stamina
  • Glucose tolerance
  • Muscle mass
  • Bone strength
  • Mental and emotional state

Exercise is also known to increase one’s lifespan, which has been scientifically substantiated, and reduce the risk of various diseases thereby improving one’s quality of life, reducing medical costs and allowing for a greater degree of independence in the senior years.

Cardiovascular Exercise vs Weight Training for the Elderly

So which form of exercise is best suited for the elderly? The reality is that any exercise program should incorporate a bit of both cardiovascular exercise and weight training. This doe not mean that on needs to start with strenuous running and intensive bench pressing. Cardiovascular can be as simple as regular walking and strength training can be conducted through practices like yoga. Often activities such as swimming are lauded for having the best of both words – cardiovascular and strength training (water resistance). In addition, swimming is a low impact activity on the joints. This is especially important for the elderly due to the age-related risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes mellitus, sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and osteoporosis (brittle bones). One should only consider starting an exercise program after seeking the approval of their family doctor.


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