What is your lifelong goal in fitness

Fit for life

IN-FORM.de: Professor Banzer, is lifelong fitness even possible?

Prof. Banzer: Like all human functions, endurance and muscular fitness also decrease with age. The decline can be slowed down significantly by regular exercise.

What is the actual fitness of the elderly?

Prof. Banzer: The data from the second Heidelberg centenary study makes one rather optimistic: According to the study, centenarians today are less restricted than the same group of people 10 years ago. The Generali Age Study 2013 carried out by the Institute for Demoscopy (IfD) Allensbach also suggests that today's seniors are anything but old-fashioned. They feel around 10 years younger than they actually are and take part in life very actively.

Can and should every older person still do sports?

Prof. Banzer: Everyone should try to move as much as possible. It doesn't have to be sport. Stool gymnastics, gymnastics in bed or a walk - every movement is better than none. Acute illnesses pose a danger, however, until they subside, you have to pause. Your family doctor or a sports doctor can clarify whether seniors have medical restrictions that rule out one form of exercise or another.

How much exercise should seniors do?

Prof. Banzer: The current health-oriented recommendations do not speak of sport, but of physical activity or movement that is beneficial to health. The difference is important: physical activity also includes exercise in everyday life, such as walking or cycling to work or gardening. The current weekly minimum recommendations of the World Health Organization are: 2.5 hours of aerobic activity with moderate intensity plus 2-3 times muscle-strengthening activity as well as additional balance and flexibility exercises.

Strength, cardiovascular system, back - which goals are realistic for older people? Which expectations are too high?

Prof. Banzer: Most older people do not have any high-performance sports goals in mind, but above all the hope of living independently and with as few restrictions as possible for as long as possible. Regular physical activity that stresses the cardiovascular system and muscles can play an immensely important role here. Studies show that regular physical activity can delay the onset of chronic illnesses and functional impairment by years. However, age by no means excludes high-performance athleticism. More and more seniors are doing sport in a performance-oriented way and taking part in competitions. It is important here that they let themselves be looked after by specialists and that they do not increase their stress abruptly.

Which specific sports or movements are suitable for older people?

Prof. Banzer: Anyone who has been active in the past is welcome to continue doing the sport that they have already done before. Newcomers who are perhaps less interested in sports should choose sports that do not involve extreme loads or demands (e.g. coordination) and in which the risk of injury is low. Walking, cycling, swimming and aqua aerobics are very popular with seniors.

What do you have to consider when returning to sport?

Prof. Banzer: A sports medical check-up is definitely recommended if someone was previously inactive for a long time. This is important in order to uncover possible damage or restrictions. Newcomers should also take it slow, increase the scope and intensity of their activity little by little and set realistic goals. Exercise does not have to be high-intensity in order to have health effects, the decisive factor is regularity.

How can older people motivate themselves to exercise more and participate in sports?

Prof. Banzer: The social environment, family, friends or neighbors can play an important role here. Those who feel supported are more likely to stick with it. Many studies also show that (house) doctors, who usually have a long and trusting relationship with the patient, can also play an important role.

Are there any successful examples of programs to promote physical activity among the elderly?

Prof. Banzer: Many sponsors and initiatives are involved in this area. In addition, more and more clubs are offering courses specifically for this age group. For example, the exercise program "fit for 100" is a senior sports project that is specifically geared towards the group of people in their fourth age (80+). The aim of the project is to achieve and maintain more everyday skills among very old people.

  • Further information on the “fit for 100” project can be found at www.ff100.de
  • You can find publications on the subjects of nutrition and exercise in the IN FORM flyer and brochures - nutrition and exercise in old age in the IN FORM professional portal
  • Under “Knowledge” you will find a lot more information and suggestions for a lifelong healthy lifestyle for the target group “Elderly”.

IN FORM experts

Our experts provide insights into exciting sports and new scientific findings. The interviewees and their organizations are part of the IN FORM working group “Promotion of physical activity”.

The “Promotion of physical activity” working group has jointly developed a position paper that contains recommendations on daily physical activity and also provides information on how physical activity promotion can be promoted in Germany.

Further IN FORM working groups

The “Quality Assurance” working group has created an online quality assurance guide that supports project participants in prevention and health promotion. Furthermore, she developed an online guide for evaluating projects.

The “Communication” working group contributes its expertise to facilitate press and public relations work for project participants, as well as communication with supporters and partners. The “Communication Guide” was developed for this purpose.