Improving the health of adults over 50, through physical activity
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Physical Activity Prescription

Older adults tend to be more compliant with a physical activity program if they have individualized programs based on their needs and specific goals. It's important for healthcare providers to use the results of a physical ability assessment as well as their subjective functional limitations in determining individual goals and exercise needs. Activities should be recommended to individuals that are safe and efficient to address their functional limitations. By including specific activities to address specific impairments, individuals should be able to see progress in their functional limitations, thus promoting compliance.

How to determine initial physical activity prescription

The ACSM and the Blueprint recommend the following elements of physical activity: cardiorespiratory (aerobic) endurance, muscle strength & endurance, balance, and stretching. Based on the results of an individual's assessment, the healthcare practitioner can develop a specific program.

Healthcare providers must remember that typical physical activity recommendations are GOALS, and not necessarily the "first step" in adopting an active lifestyle. Emphasize that individuals may start at 5 or 10 minutes of easy and fun activity, and work up to 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week. Individuals may also break up the 30 minutes into smaller, 10-minute segments. They can incorporate other activities they may enjoy such as a sport or strength training program.

Healthcare providers should provide written, individualized physical activity programs for older adults based on their abilities, needs, and goals. In addition to behavioral counseling of patients on increasing physical activity with daily activities, individuals should receive a specific physical activity prescription in four basic areas: cardiorespiratory, strength, flexibility, and balance. Activities should be safe, appropriate, practical, easy to understand, and adaptable to different populations.

Individuals who present with persistent musculoskeletal symptoms should be first referred to a physical or occupational therapist for evaluation before prescribing a structured physical activity program.

How to prescribe a well-rounded physical activity program.

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