Healthy and active aging

Healthy and active aging is about promoting healthy lifestyles throughout our lives and includes our eating and nutritional habits, as well as our levels of physical and social activity.

Taking care of your health

Active aging applies to both individuals and groups. The term “active” refers to continued participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs and not just the ability to be physically active or participate in the world of work. With the active aging paradigm, the aim is to extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life for people as they age, including those who are in a situation of frailty, disability, or dependency.

Active aging helps reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases that are increasing. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are among the leading preventable causes of death in older people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on physical activity for people over 65 years of age

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Physical activity recommendations

For older adults, physical activity can be undertaken as part of recreation and leisure (play, games, sports or planned exercise), transportation (wheeling, walking and cycling), work, or household chores, in the context of daily occupational, educational, home or community settings.

Extremely beneficial

In older adults, physical activity confers benefits for the following health outcomes: improved all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, incident hypertension, incident site-specific cancers, incident type-2 diabetes, mental health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression), cognitive health, and sleep; measures of adiposity may also improve.

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“In older adults, physical activity helps prevent falls and falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability.”

Older people should partake in regular physical activity

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Weekly Activity

Older adults should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week, for substantial health benefits

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Muscle Strengthening

As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity, on 3 or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.

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More than 300 minutes

Older adults may increase moderate intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes; or do more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity throughout the week, for additional health benefits.

Good practice statements

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Doing some physical activity is better than doing none.

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If older adults are not meeting the recommendations, doing some physical activity will bring benefits to health.

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Older adults should start by doing small amounts of physical activity, and gradually increase the frequency, intensity and duration over time.

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Older adults should be as physically active as their functional ability allows, and adjust their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.

We can summarize the benefits of physical activity in older people, in the following aspects

(Marcos, Frontera and Santonja, 1995)