The Commonwealth Government is urging older Australians to engage in moderate physical activity for at least half an hour every day.

This piece of advice is included in the first ever physical activity recommendations developed specifically for older Australians.

The Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot officially announced the recommendations at the 11th Annual Health Congress in Sydney.

“The aim of the recommendations is to raise awareness of older Australian’s special physical activity needs – such as balance, mobility and strength training,” Mrs Elliot said.

“Physical activity in older people is important for helping to prevent or manage chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.”

The guidelines were developed by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) in Melbourne.

The key message of the recommendations is that older people should be involved in physical activity regardless of age, weight, health problems or abilities.

“This is not a prescriptive recipe for people that says, ‘This is what you should do’,” said Keith Hill, a Professor of Allied Health at LaTrobe University and a senior researcher with NARI.

“What we want to say is that whatever your age and whatever your health level is, there’s something you could be doing to help yourself. Everyone should be thinking about this.

“We are tailoring the message to be a bit more applicable to older people so they don’t just say, ‘I’ve had a stroke so I can’t do this’.”

The guidelines suggest that people who are starting a new activity should begin at a manageable level and gradually build up the intensity or frequency of their exercise.

Professor Hill said many incidental activities such as vacuuming and gardening can help boost exercise levels.

“Even things like parking a bit further away form the shop or taking the stairs instead of the elevator put more into a day in terms of the quota of activity,” he said.

“The quota is a cumulative amount, too. The 30 minutes in a day doesn’t have to be in one burst but for some people a half-hour block might be more helpful.”

Further suggestions about how older Australians can be active can be found in the ‘Choose Health: Be Active’ booklet.

The booklet offers helpful tips and advice on how older people can engage in moderate activity to improve their health.

It was first developed in 2005 for older Australians in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Sports Medicine Australia.

There are 155,000 free copies of the Choose Health: Be Active booklet available that can be ordered by calling 1800 500 853.

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