Exercise Programs from Playground to Senior Home

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Did you know that about 17 percent of children and teenagers are obese? It’s also estimated that obese children are more likely to become overweight adults1. And the prevalence of obesity among adults suggests that it will be an increasing problem in the future among senior adults.

So whether you’re 9 or 90, it’s essential to develop consistent exercise habits as soon as possible because exercise is beneficial to your health, no matter what your age. It reduces your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, osteoporotic fractures, and cancer2. And it improves your cardiovascular fitness, reduces stress, and allows you to perform daily living activities more easily.

Current exercise guidelines suggest that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week for general health maintenance, but the exercise time should be increased if your goal is weight loss. Experts recommend that children participate in 60 minutes of some kind of physical activity five to six days a week3. These 60 minutes stints of activity don’t have to be achieved in one exercise session, but can be spilt up into multiple exercise bouts throughout the day. Although exercise is important and beneficial to individuals of various ages, there are special exercise considerations for children and senior citizens. In what follows, we’ll discuss the unique exercise concerns for these two age groups.

Children and Teens

Children and teens should be encouraged to participate regularly in physical activities that promote cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. Although the health benefits are an important reason for children to exercise, it’s also just as important that younger generations establish a desire and habit of exercise. Research has indicated that practices carried out in childhood carry on into adulthood4. If people are not accustomed to exercise as children, they will be less likely to participate in physical activity as adults. So if you want your children to adopt a healthy lifestyle, you need to start teaching them the importance of physical activity at an early age.

Youth Fitness Guidelines

It’s important to understand that adult exercise guidelines differ from youth fitness guidelines because children have different needs. Adults tend to be sedentary for most of the day and so they usually have a specific time during the day to engage in exercise. On the other hand, it’s easy to see that children naturally participate in sporadic bursts of activity throughout the day. So, just because a child doesn’t participate in planned exercise doesn’t mean he or she is sedentary.

When thinking about child exercise standards, we need to remember that kids are not mini adults. Their bodies can’t handle the same amount of physical stress and activity that adults can. We advise against putting children on a formal exercise routine—such as jogging for 30 minutes a day—because prolonged periods of exercise are more taxing on a child than on an adult. Ultimately, children who over-exercise can develop bone damage and permanent growth problems5.

Rather than encouraging children to participate in extended formal exercise, parents should encourage their children to engage in small periods of active play, so that by the end of the day, they have accumulated the recommended 60 minutes of activity. And once a child reaches 14 or 15 years of age, he or she can participate in organized and prolonged exercise. With this strategy, your kids will gradually be introduced to fitness and will associate it with fun. As a result, they will be more likely to continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle as they mature into adulthood.

Senior Citizens

A senior citizen is an individual 50 years of age or older. This age group can receive countless health benefits from exercise. But senior adults are also subject to more medical conditions than younger adults. So if you’re 50 or older, make sure you get your doctor’s approval before embarking on an exercise program.

It’s recommended that senior citizens participate in regular cardiovascular fitness activities because senior adults have a greater risk for heart problems. The key is to start out slow and work your way up to moderately intense activity. For example, if you’re over 50 you may want to start out with just 15 minutes of light walking several times a week, and then once your heart gets used to increased physical activity, progress to 30 minutes of fast paced walking or light jogging, witht he goal of 150 minutes per week.

Many senior citizens avoid weight lifting because they think strength training is just for young people. On the contrary, senior adults who participate in weight lifting can decrease their cholesterol level and decrease bone deterioration6. In fact, several studies have shown that older men and postmenopausal women can actually gain bone strength through a regular resistance training program, thus preventing osteoporosis7.

Resistance training for older adults can also deter low back pain, which is the most prevalent medical problem in the United States, affecting four out of every five people during their lifetime8. Studies have also indicated that individuals who participate in weight training can improve joint function and reduce arthritic discomfort9.

Perhaps most important of all, a major issue facing senior citizens is muscle atrophy with age. But numerous studies have shown that senior citizens can actually gain muscle mass by following a standard strength training program10. So if you’re 50 or older, a light regimen of strength training along with a cardio workout routine can keep you feeling young and healthy for many years to come.

Ultimately, exercise programs are like finger prints; every person’s is unique. You need to formula a fitness routine that suits your health level and age. Children primarily need to focus on developing good habits of physical activity. Teenagers and adults need to begin developing a regular workout routine in order to prevent obesity, and senior adults need to adopt a strength training and cardio workout routine in order to reduce muscle deterioration and heart disease. Regardless of your age, you’re never too old to start exercising.


Basics About Childhood Obesity. (2011, April 26). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/basics.html

The Benefits of Physical Activity. (2011, February 16). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/health/index.html

3 Corbin, C. (1994). Toward an understanding of appropriate physical activity levels of youth. Physical Activity and Fitness Research Digest, 1-8.

4 Strategies and Solutions. (2011, April 21). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/solutions.html

5 Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.).Champaign,IL: Human Kinetics.

6 Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults. (2010, January 10). Retrieved from National Institute for Health Senior Adults: nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/benefitsofexercise/01.html

7 Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (Eds.). (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.).Champaign,IL: Human Kinetics.

9 Marks, R. (1993). The effects of isometric quadriceps strength training in mid-range osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Care Research, 52-56.

10 Frontera, W., Meredith, C., O’Reilly, K., & Knuttgen, H. (1038). Strength conditioning in older men: Skeletal muscle hypertrophy and improved function. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1044.


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