The so-called aging of America is a well-known phenomenon.
Throughout the 20th century, both the average age and the life expectancy of Americans have steadily increased. It is estimated that by 2050, the proportion of Americans over age 65 will approach 22% - nearly one in four.
Regular physical activity can play a major role in ameliorating many age-related declines in the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. Furthermore, physical activity often can prevent the need for medical treatment, or it can serve as an important adjuvant to medical treatment.
Regular physical activity exerts beneficial effects on the functioning of the cardio-respiratory, vascular, metabolic, endocrine and immune systems. In so doing, it greatly reduces risk factors for coronary artery disease, the nation's leading cause of death, and may also prevent the development of, or effectively treat, diseases such as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer, peripheral vascular occlusive arterial disease, arthritis and hypertension.
Regular exercise reduces body fat stores, increases muscle strength and endurance, strengthens bones, and, importantly, improves mental health.
Lack of physical activity is a health issue in all segments of the American population. The most recently available national survey of the leisure-time physical activity of individuals in the United States shows that individuals aged 65 to 74 years, 27% of males and 19% of females reported engaging in regular activity; 21% of males and 17% of females reported vigorous physical activity.
A major component of a cardio exercise programs for elderly women is physical activity that is rhythmic and dynamic in nature, involving large muscle groups for cardiovascular benefits, performed regularly (preferably daily).
Examples are walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, chair- and floor-exercising, stair-climbing etc.
Light- to moderate-intensity cardio exercise programs for elderly women such as walking is usually appropriate and safe for apparently healthy elderly women when embarking on a regular exercise program.
However, an individual with major medical conditions, especially one with known cardio-respiratory disease, should be evaluated by a physician before embarking on a more vigorous exercise training program.
Post-menopausal women who have been extremely sedentary should start with cardio exercise programs of short duration and very light intensity, gradually increasing the duration without increasing the intensity.
It is advised that such individuals wishing to progress to more intense activity should first consult their physicians.
Healthy elderly women can safely engage in moderate levels of physical activity and cardio exercise programs (e.g., moderate walking, gardening, yard work) without consulting a doctor first.
The few studies that have included women have indicated that elderly women may benefit even more than elderly men from being physically fit. Physically fit elderly women enjoy even greater reduced rates of death from heart disease than men.