What is the best way to gauge how much exercise is too much?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

What is the best way to gauge how much exercise is too much? I know it's supposed to be good for everyone, but I hesitate to push my mother to get active given how tired she feels sometimes. Background: My mother has had a few stent procedures in the past few years. She is 82 years old and the doctor's don't feel they should perform a bypass, but her arteries were clogged and needed intervention. She is currently going to physical therapy twice a week for exercises aimed at reducing pain in her ear that the doctor thinks is related to arthritis in her neck. We want to see her get exercise, because a. she likes it. b. it seems to be making her stronger and c. i know it's good in general for your health, but I also worry about causing her to have a heart attack or stroke from over exertion. 

Expert Answers

James Frank is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the V.A. Medical Center in San Francisco.

The general rule is that people need to pace themselves and limit their exercise based on their ability to do it. So if your mother is exercising and having chest pain, that's definitely too much. But as long as she's exercising with frequent resting so she's not exhausted, short of breath, or having angina symptoms, it's probably okay.

Think of it this way: She's not training to run a marathon, she's just exercising because it makes her feel good, and because staying active helps her to remain active. So how she exercises depends on what feels good. For some people, that may just mean going through the daily routine; for others, it may mean actual scheduled exercise like walking, from even just several feet to a few blocks. But the important thing is that she shouldn't push herself to the point of having symptoms or past the point of having symptoms. And she should definitely discuss her exercise program with her doctor.

Community Answers

Raynebow answered...

I'm no expert, but I'd bet your mother will know. Keep an eye on the clock and watch for fatigue. Personally I wouldn't go for more than ten minutes to start and see how she's feeling then.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Yes, for me it was. I'm also 82 and in pretty good health, but raking and bagging pine needles and mowing a (small) lawn in 90 degree heat kind of does me in (I live in Florida). An hour of that is enough for me, and I drink water and rest a couple of times. With a rest afterward with the a/c on, and a shower, I seem to recover okay. And I do walk, when my plantar fasciitis is not acting up. The doctor keeps asking me about my 'exercise program', and I get the feeling that he thinks I am sedentary because I'm slightly overweight.