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Physical Activity In Elderly


Across developed regions of the world, inactivity ranks alongside tobacco, alcohol, and obesity as a leading cause of reduced healthy life expectancy. It contributes to several specific health and function problems in old age and has pronounced effects on strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity, walking capacity, balance and mental and cognitive decline.

In a randomized controlled trial in elderly samples have demonstrated favorable effects of exercise training on cognitive and physical function1. Prolonged television viewing time (defined typically as two or more hours per day) has been associated with overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes and abnormal glucose metabolism, and the metabolic syndrome.

According to WHO guidelines on physical activity in elderly includes:

  • leisure time physical activity (for example walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming),
  •  transportation (for example walking or cycling),
  • occupational (if the individual is still engaged in work),
  •  household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities.

There are studies support the hypothesis that religious meditation and prayers benefit human physiological function, especially balance. For example, healthy adults practicing Islamic prayer regimes which involves changes in postures such as standing, bowing, prostration and sitting, exhibited statistically significantly better dynamic balance than the non-practicing healthy adults4.


  • Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that result in energy expenditure .
  • Exercise or sport typically has been defined as a subset of physical activity that involves planned, structured, and repetitive bodily movements are done to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness2.

The Importance Of Exercise

Physical inactivity has a strong relationship with chronic diseases and health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer (i.e., colon, breast), depression, dementia, the decline in physical function, and weight gain and all-cause mortality.

A regular physical activity regimen has been associated with improved sleep quality, lower risk of hip fracture and increased bone density, reduced abdominal obesity, lower risk of lung and endometrial cancers, weight maintenance following weight loss, and positive well-being and overall quality of life increased survival in the elderly1.

Significant health benefits were even seen among participants who became physically active relatively late in life.
In another study showed that the physical activities involved in the performance of salat help in the rehabilitation process in disabled geriatric patients by improving blood flow and increasing musculoskeletal fitness3.


Focus NOT only to one activity or type of exercise but the ultimate goal is to develop a comprehensive movement aims to build the ENDURANCE, STRENGTH, BALANCE, and FLEXIBILITY6

    1. ENDURANCE  is an aerobic activity that increases the breathing and heart rate and improves the health of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Ideally, elderly should be able to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate endurance activity a week. This would include walking, swimming, cycling, and a little bit of time every day to improve strength, flexibility, and balance.

The 150 minutes is the prescribed amount of moderate-intensity exercise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) suggest for generally fit Americans aged 65 and older. Even though this sounds like a lot, the good news is that elderly can break it down into 10- or 15-minute chunks of exercise two or more times a day.” 

Increasing elderly endurance can make it easier for them to:

      • push the grandchildren on the swings
      • doing vacuum work
      • work in the garden
      • rake leaves
      • play a sport
1 2

Source: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life

Do a little light activity to warm up and cool down before and after the endurance activities.

    1. STRENGTH:  Increased muscle strength can maintain the ability to
      • climb stairs
      • carry groceries
      • open jars
      • carry a full laundry basket from the basement to the second floor
      • carry smaller grandchildren
      • lift bags of mulch in the garden

Activities for Upper Body strengtening6

Hand Grip
Wrist Curl
Overhead Arm Raise
Front Arm Raise
Side Arm Raise
Arm Curl
Arm Curl with Resistance Band
Seated Row with Resistance Band
Wall Push-Up
Elbow Extension
Chair Dip

Source: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life

Activities for Lower body strengtening6

Back Leg Raise
Side Leg Raise
Knee Curl
Leg Straightening
Chair Stand
Toe Stand
    1. BALANCE: Balance exercises can improve the ability to control and maintain your body’s position, whether while moving or standing still. It can help to prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling.
Stand on One Foot
Heel-to-Toe Walk
Balance Walk

Source: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life

  1. FLEXIBILITY or stretching exercises can help the body stay flexible and limber, which gives the body more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for  everyday activities. Improving the flexibility makes it easier to:
    • look over the shoulder to see what’s behind  as you back the car out of the driveway
    • make the bed
    • bend over to tie your shoes
    • reach for a food item on a kitchen shelf
    • pull a sweater on over your head
    • swing a golf club

Activities for flexibility6

Getting Down on the Floor
Getting Up from the Floor
Shoulder and Upper Arm
Upper Body
Back 1
Back 2
Upper Back
Back of Leg (Floor)
Back of Leg
Thigh (Floor)
Thigh (Standing)
Lower Back
Buddy Stretch

Source: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life


  1. Hamer M, et al. (2014). Taking up physical activity in later life and healthy ageing: the English longitudinal study of ageing. Br J Sports Med, 48:239–243.
  2. Caspersen, C.J., Powell, K.E., Christenson, G. M. (1985). Physical activity, exercise, and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Rep,100:126-30.
  3. Reza, M.F., Urakami, Y., Mano, Y. (2002) Evaluation of a new physical exercise taken from salat (prayer) as a short-duration and frequent physical activity in the rehabilitation of geriatric and disabled patients. Ann Saudi Med. 22(3-4):177-80.
  4. Sami Saleh Al Abdulwahab,  Kachanathu, S.J., & Kamaldeen Oluseye. (2013). Physical Activity Associated with Prayer Regimes Improves Standing Dynamic Balance of Healthy People.Phys Ther Sci. 25(12): 1565–1568.
  5. C.K. Abby et al. Physical Activity for an Aging Population Department of Health Research & Policy, and Stanford Prevention Research Center. Public Health Reviews, 32(2), 401-426
  6. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF AGING. Retrieved from: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life
Last Reviewed : 7 November 2016
Writer : Dr. Siti Aishah bt. Johari
Accreditor : Dr. Ruziaton bt. Hasim