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Physical Activity for Older Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What do I need to know about physical activity and aging?

Physical activity can help you get or stay physically and mentally healthy as you age. You may be able to do your daily activities more easily. If you have arthritis, your joints may move more easily and with less pain. Your bones and muscles will get stronger. Strength and better balance help prevent osteoporosis and reduce your risk for falls. Regular activity can improve your mood and appetite, and help you sleep better. Your risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke will be lower. Activity can help you control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and lower your cholesterol. Activity can also slow or prevent cognitive (thinking) problems as you age.

What do I need to know about physical activity safety?

What kinds of activities help improve flexibility?

You can improve your flexibility by doing stretching activities. Only stretch far enough that you feel the stretch but do not feel pain. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, or for as long as directed. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times before you move to the next body area. Breathe normally. Do not hold your breath. It is important to breathe in and out so you do not tense up during exercise. Tension could prevent your muscles from stretching. The following are examples of flexibility activities:

What kinds of activities help improve balance?

Good balance can help you prevent falls. Do balance activities a few times each week. You might want to ask someone to help you while you do these activities. The person can help make sure you do not fall. Make sure your path or activity area is clear of objects before you begin. The following are examples of activities that help improve balance:

What kinds of activities help improve conditioning?

Conditioning includes activities that increase your heart rate and breathing. Activity that uses body weight is called weightbearing exercise. Examples include walking, dancing, and raking leaves. Weightbearing activities help strengthen bones. Nonweightbearing activities include riding a bicycle and swimming. Aim for 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate aerobic activity each week. The following are examples of activities that help improve conditioning:

What kinds of activities help build strength?

Strength training helps you keep the muscles you have and build new muscles. Strong muscles help protect your bones. You can also improve your balance by strengthening your leg, back, and core (abdomen) muscles. If you do not have wights or resistance bands, you can use household items, such as soup cans. You can stand or sit in a chair or wheelchair when you do strength training. Try to work all the major muscle groups, such as your legs, arms, abdomen, and chest. Do strength training at least 2 times each week. Spread the days out so you are not doing strength training 2 days in a row. You can cause injury if you do not rest muscles in between sessions. The following are examples of strength training exercises:

Strength Training for Seniors

What are some tips to help me stay on track?

What do I need to know about nutrition and activity?

Healthy foods will give you the energy you need to be active. Activity and good nutrition work together to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, cooked beans, whole-grain breads, and low-fat dairy products. Your healthcare provider can help you create a healthy meal plan. He or she can tell you how many calories you need to stay active and still lose weight if needed.

Healthy Foods

When should I call my doctor or physical therapist?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.