By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S. 

This is a subject that often comes up during the initial fitness assessment at our health and wellness facility. Among other physical and medical health queries, we typically want to know what type of activities (exercise) our members currently engage in.

It is not unusual for adults and older adults to respond with, “Do gardening and housework count?” Or “Is heavy lifting considered a workout?” And “I bowl, play ping pong, and shoot pool. Are these thought to be exercise?” At our Quincy College fitness facility, we deem all movements important; each has its benefits and certain modes of activity are best prioritized. But why don’t we first explore the definition of exercise?

Wikipedia definition: Exercise is a physical activity that enhances and maintains fitness and overall health, and performed for numerous reasons, e.g., weight loss and maintenance, aid growth and improve strength, develop muscle and cardiovascular system, hone athletic skills, improve health, or simply for enjoyment.

Expert opinions

Fitness professionals classify exercise/physical activity into four basic areas: (1) aerobic exercise, (2) strength training, (3) stretching, and (4) balance exercises.

Whether you are apparently healthy or physically challenged, at any age/health condition, all types of movement are advantageous as opposed to being inactive/sedentary. Losing muscle due to lack of exercise, specifically resistance exercise, weakens the body, and it becomes increasingly difficult to exercise or perform activities previously enjoyed such as walking, cycling, playing golf, even socializing with family and friends.

Although enjoyment is key to sticking with any physical activity, note that muscle strength is at the core of the Fitness Activity Pyramid developed by renowned fitness researcher Dr. Wayne Westcott. When the musculoskeletal system (tendons, ligaments, and bones), is strengthened, all other physical activities are enhanced. So, if you are a sports enthusiast, engage in recreational activities, do housework, and just play with your grandkids, prioritizing strength (resistance) exercise is beneficial above all other activities.

Research has proven regular exercise can prevent/manage diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. On the plus side, being physically active translates into maintaining a healthy body weight, improved mental health and well-being, and a better quality of life. The question is, how much exercise should older adults do?

Recommendations for 65 years plus

• At least 150-300 minutes/moderate intensity endurance training, 75-150 minutes/vigorous intensity aerobic activity, or combination of both, throughout the week.

• 2-3 days per week of moderate to higher intensity muscle strengthening exercise of major muscle groups.

• Add moderate or greater intensity, functional/balance training three or more days/week.

Consider Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health, and Fitness at Quincy College’ssupervised group exercise program, lower level, Presidents Place, 1250 Hancock St. Call tour or try a class. Street parking and a parking garage are available.

About the Author: Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than 35 years. She is also an author and writes  

fitness-related articles for various publications. Currently, she is a fitness researcher and directs the Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College. She can be reached at 617-405-5978.

Westcott Fitness Activity Pyramid

Fifth Level: Athletic Activities: Moderate-to-high intensity and relatively high skill requirement
Fourth Level: Recreational Activities: Low-to-moderate intensity and relatively low skill requirement
Third Level: Joint Flexibility Activities: Range of movement is necessary for many physical activities and for avoidance of orthopedic problems.
Next Level: Cardio Endurance Activities: Heart function is extremely important for health
Base level: Muscle Strength Activities: Muscles are essential for movement in any physical activity