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How much exercise is appropriate for seniors?

Dad still seems to think he is in his 30's and wants to run five miles a day. He is 85 and I worry about him falling, having a heart attack or getting mugged. I offered to buy him a gym membership so he would at least be around other people but he says it's not "real running" if you do it on a treadmill.
Status: Open    Apr 04, 2015 - 09:36 AM

Senior Health & Nutrition

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Sep 18, 2015 - 10:13 AM

Just reading your question makes me feel a kinship with your Dad!
Truly a Man after my own heart.
I am an avid and addicted runner myself (to be fair, I'm 36 years ols, not 85..).

Once you get the bug, it's tough to lose it and I'm with your Dad re: the treadmill.

Running on a treadmill doesn't provide the same workout, not to mention the fact that it is boring as all heck!
I'd rather watch paint dry.

Your question is a good one and your concerns are valid.

I don't think the issue is whether he should exercise at his age, but rather, how much is appropriate and at what level of intensity.
We can all agree that he needs to workout for his health.

One is never "too old" to work out.
It is an issue of moderation.

I wrote an excellent, in depth and important article on this topic and I encourage you to read it!

Take a look:

Best Regards,

Judah Gutwein, L.N.H.A.
Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers


Comments (2) | New Comment

By usheroes on Oct 15, 2016 - 06:03 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

In my town, there's a gym that has a running track near the work out area. It's not a typical gym in a shopping center, but a part of the park. The park has running trails and the gym in on the property.
Maybe try to interest him in weight and circuit training? If you find a place like this, you could go yourself and find someone who would be willing to speak to him and get him interested in it. That way you can take a back seat and he won't consider it "nagging" (my dad does- lol).
If he's a man's man, then he might perk up at the thought of toning his muscles. Circuit training involves, weights, running, weights running simultaneously. It's really a better work out.
If you were in a gym such as this one, you'd also have people trained in emergency care in the event something happens. Look on your town website. there may be one near you! Hope you can find something! I totally get it....I got a phone call at work the other day that my 83 year old Dad was on his rook, sweeping! By himself!

By usheroes on Oct 15, 2016 - 06:09 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

*roof I wish there was an edit

I also agree with the treadmill. I am a trainer, my daughter is a trainer, and both of us having the personality that gets bored easily, so I totally understand! I hope there's something near you like I described:nature, running and muscles.
If you can find one, maybe get him to compromise. Tell him you can both get the benefit (what you want) and shared time together. Tammy O.

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Mar 23, 2016 - 10:16 AM

What a phenomenal accomplishment to be 85 and able to run 5 miles a day! Hats off to him, and to you for supporting him in these efforts. But, obviously you are concerned about anything that poses risks to him going forward.

The evidence that exercise can improve an older person’s strength, circulation, balance, endurance and even cognitive abilities is very clear and compelling. That said, the “how much” and intensity of that exercise really varies by the individual. An 85-year-old who can run five miles has an extraordinary threshold for exercise for someone of his age. As long as your father has no heart ailment, and the running isn’t harming his body in any way, then the five mile daily run is appropriate. At the earliest signs of pain in his knees, feet or hips – or shortness of breath earlier than in the normal course of his run – he should consider cutting back in distance or frequency of his runs.

Let’s talk about some of the risks you mentioned. There is always a risk of falls, even in people who are wheelchair bound, but exercise helps prevent falls as do things like the proper footwear and access to paths that are well paved and well lit. One real concern is that he might fall and not be seen by anyone. As for being mugged or harassed, it is a real concern as older people are frequently targeted for scams or robbery. Again, this would be mitigated by not being alone during his exercise routine.

I think this is what you should focus on, the issue of being alone should anything happen, especially a fall. If you can’t convince him to start the gym, are there indoor or outdoor tracks nearby, neighborhoods that are safe and well lit that he could drive to, or running groups that meet daily at a time that works for him? And obviously he should always run with only a phone and ID (but no wallet).

Thanks for writing in, and congrats to your dad on the inspirational healthy aging. It gives us all something to aspire to.


Jul 13, 2015 - 04:17 PM

Other than being 85 does he have any other problems that give you cause to worry about falling or a heart attack?
When he runs does he carry an ID?
When he runs does he carry money with him?
He should have an ID with him at all times.
If he does not carry money, and I am guessing most people running do not carry any or at least enough to make them "prime" candidates for a mugging. But there is always the chance but that chance was there when he was 55, 65, 75 as well.
Check to find if there is a running group in his area and he can run with "like minded people" and he just may find a new group of friends that will be more than happy to keep him company on a run.
Now this answer changes if he does have medical issues that may cause falling or a heart attack. Then maybe he might take the suggestion better from his doctor that he should be on an indoor track. If that is the case it is possible that maybe a 1 month membership so he can get used to it without knowing that he is tied to the club for a year might make him feel better.

All I can say is your Dad has a few years on me and I wish he would come get me for a run every day...I need motivation like that.

Sep 06, 2015 - 07:25 AM

Of course he should carry ID and a cell phone in case he has a problem such as a fall or chest pain, but then everyone going out alone should do so. Whether runners or walkers, everyone should have a way to call for help. Running with a group is a good idea. There are now emergency call systems that work outside the home not just inside. Some of these systems have fall detection, so you can be unconscious and still get help. I know you are concerned about your dad--as you should be, but you should keep things in prospective. He is 85 and can RUN FIVE MILES!! The average 85 year old can't walk a total of 5 miles in a day. His chances of having a heart attack would be greatly increased if he had not been doing all of that running. It sounds like his mind is functioning just fine too, due in part to the exercise. Be thankful for your father's excellent health!

Nov 22, 2015 - 10:29 AM

Gee, he is 85 and wants to and loves to run. Let him. Assure the safety and ID issues mentioned by others and perhaps join him. Celebrate his robust love of life! Find for yourself someone with whom you can discuss the intricacies of losing a parent and allowing someone you love the freedom to determine how they spend the time of their life. Everyone dies. May we each have something great that gives us strength and joy right through to our final day for life without meaningful, defining activities isn't life at all. I learned this from both of my parents who preferred to "die with their boots on". It was so painful but I am consoled by their example of the sanctity of life.
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