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Carter | Nursing & Rehabilitation

Adding Physical Activity as an Older Adult

February 7, 2024

Adults 65 and older need a mix of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance activities each week to keep their bodies strong. Regular physical activity can help you live independently, have a better quality of life, and prevent or manage chronic disease.

It’s never too late to start being physically active! Pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you stick with them.

Tips for Being Physically Active

  • Try to do a variety of activities. This can make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Even if it’s hard to do some types of activities such as climbing stairs or walking, you can safely do other types of physical activity. Try airplane stretches [PDF-2.9MB] and chair [PDF-2.9MB] or desk exercises [PDF-1.3MB].
  • Lots of activities count, even things like mowing the lawn or carrying groceries, and it all adds up. Find what works for you.
  • If you take a break from your regular activity due to an illness or travel, start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.
  • If it is too hot, cold, or wet to be outside, try walking in a mall or look for an online fitness program you can do at home.
  • If losing weight is your goal, you may need to reduce the number of calories you eat and do more than the recommended amounts of physical activity.

Recommended Weekly Physical Activity

Every week, adults 65 and older need physical activities that include:

  • At least 150 minutes (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking. Or you need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
  • At least 2 days of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot.

See examples of how to fit this into a week.

What if You Have a Chronic Condition?

If you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and even reduce your risk of developing other conditions.

Ask your doctor if your health condition limits your ability to be active in any way. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities.

If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum recommended activity levels, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive.

What if You Have a Disability?

Regular physical activity provides people with disabilities  important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs, and muscles; improved brain health; and a better ability to do everyday tasks. Talk with your doctor before you begin a physical activity routine. A professional with experience in physical activity and disabilities can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity appropriate for you.

Other Reasons to Check With Your Doctor

Doing physical activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if you have been inactive, are not too fit, or are overweight, and want to do vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as jogging, it is safest to discuss this with your doctor.

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