Starting physical activity

Starting physical activity

Advantages and disadvantages of being physically active: If you are still thinking about increasing physical activities in your daily life, the following advantages may convince you to start:
In comparison to less active men and women, older adults who are physically active have:

  • lower rates of coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, colon and breast cancer and a higher level of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.
  • A healthier body mass and composition and enhanced bone health.
  • Higher levels of functional health and a lower risk of falling.
  • Better cognitive functioning.
  • Higher levels of wellbeing

Besides these advantages, physical activity is also connected to some risks:
  • Higher incidence of leisure-time and sport related injuries than inactive elderly, while inactive adults report more injuries during non-sport and non-leisure time.
  • The risk of sudden cardiac arrest or myocardial infarction is very low in generally healthy adults during moderate-intensity activities. However, the risk of cardiovascular complications increases transiently during vigorous physical exertion, especially for people who have latent or documented coronary artery disease and are habitually sedentary.
  • Based on current available research, there is no substantial evidence to justify the fear of getting injured in purposeful physical activity or in sports in advanced age.

Based on this information you will have to weigh up the risks of performing physical activity against the risks of inactivity! Adults aged 65 years and older gain substantial health benefits from regular physical activity, and these benefits continue to occur throughout the years..

(Needs Analysis Active I, p. 26, based on: ACSM, 2009; Colcombe & Kramer, 2003; Dunsky & Netz, 2012; Haskell et al., 2007; Mechling & Netz, 2009; Netz, Wu, Becker & Tennenbaum, 2005).).

Your exercise routine

To avoid injuries or cardiovascular complications, please have a look in the “safety” section and create a reasonable exercise routine. This exercise routine is composed of 3 sections::

Warm up: To activate your cardiovascular system, start with walking outside for 5-10 minutes at a speed that is comfortable for you (or in your home if the weather is bad)..

The main part of the exercises: Do your planned activities (e.g. walking, balance or strength exercises) in the main part of your exercise routine..

Cool Down: You should include a cool down/stretching routine after each session. To limber up and relax your muscles after your physical activities.

Training clothess

A combination of sports t-shirt and long or short sport-trousers with sport shoes is the optimal training outfit for starting your physical activity. If you do not have sport clothes you can also use a comfortable shirt and loose-fitting trousers. Open shoes, slippers or sandals are not suitable..

Recommendations for physical activity for health according to the World Health Organization (adapted and shortened):

Recommendations for physical activity for health according to the World Health Organization (adapted and shortened):

To promote and maintain health,

  • Adults aged 18+ years should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in sets of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
  • Adults with poor mobility (especially 65+) should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
  • When adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

WHO (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Available online recommendations Accessed on November 25, 2013.

Recommendations against sedentary behavior

Recommendations against sedentary behavior

Beside little or no physical activity sedentary behavior is also associated with disease. Sedentary behavior is activity that involves little or no movement or physical activity. Examples are sitting, watching television, playing video games, and using a computer (ACSM, 2011). There are several strategies to prevent sedentarism (Dustan, Howard, Healy, & Owen, 2012):

  • Standing and taking a break from the computer every 30 minutes.
  • Taking standing breaks during sitting time during the day.
  • Standing during phone calls
  • Walking to see a friend.
  • Using a height-adjustable desk to enable frequent transitions between working in a standing or seated position.
  • Using a headset or the speaker phone to enable more standing while using the phone.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) (2011). Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. A position stand. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 43, 1334-1359.

Dunstan, D. W., Howard, B., Healy, G. N., & Owen, N. (2012). Too much sitting--a health hazard. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 97, 368-376.



To participate in physical activities has many health benefits for your physical and mental health and it increases your wellbeing. To make 'being active' an enjoyable experience, we recommend that you consider the following safety tips::

  • Before you start any kind of physical activity after a period of inactivity, check your physical activity readiness ( Par-Q ) for your personal safety.
  • Start slowly and increase the duration, frequency and intensity of your activities gradually over time.
  • Listen to your body at all times while exercising. Stop exercises immediately if you experience chest pain, dizziness, or breathing problems. Conduct all exercises for strength, flexibility and endurance over a range of motion and intensity that does not cause you any pain in your joints or muscles. Do everything according to what you are capable of. Slight muscle soreness in the days after your activity is normal and should not cause any worry.
  • If you feel insecure while doing exercises in a standing position, use one or two chairs as support (one in front of you to hold on and one behind you to sit on if necessary).
  • Make sure all throw rugs have non-slip backs so you don’t slip on them!