In a 2013 Center for Disease Control study, more than 30% of adults aged 65 or older
reported no leisure-time physical activity in the past month. But even
older people need regular exercise.
Physical activity can help prevent bone loss (reducing the risk of
fractures) and reduces the risk of many diseases associated with
aging. It increases muscle strength and may improve balance and coordination, which can
reduce the likelihood of falling. It also increases the ability for
basic living, making it easier to carry grocery bags, get up from a
chair and take care of household chores. Being physically active is a
real key in maintaining quality of life and independence.
Elderly men with high blood pressure can lower their risk of
death with even moderate levels of fitness compared to those who were
less fit. Studies have shown that increased levels of physical
activity are associated with a reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, hypertension,
non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression and
anxiety. Active people with high blood pressure, high blood
cholesterol, diabetes or other chronic diseases are less likely to die
prematurely than inactive people with these conditions. Fitness can
have a positive impact on health regardless of age or the presence of
- Older adults can work with their health care provider to
develop an activity plan to consider chronic conditions, activity
limitations, and reducing risk of falls. Fitness professionals can
also be a good resource for recommendations on physical activity and
injury prevention for healthy, asymptomatic older adults.
- Focus more on increasing moderate activity and give less emphasis to
attaining high levels of activity which can have a risk of injury
and lower adherence. Pick activities you enjoy and exercise at an
intensity appropriate for you. You may find that you can gradually
increase your physical activity over time.
- Pick activities
that are fun, suit your needs and that you can do year-round.
- Wear comfortable clothing and footwear appropriate for the
temperature, humidity and activity.
- If you decide that walking is a great activity for you, choose a
place that has a smooth, soft surface; that does not intersect with
traffic; and that's well-lighted and safe. Many people walk at local
area shopping malls.
- Find a companion to exercise with you
if it will help you stay on a regular schedule and add to your
- Because muscular adaptation and elasticity
generally slows with age, take more time to warm up and cool down while exercising. Make
sure you stretch slowly.
- Start exercising at a
low intensity (especially if you've been mostly sedentary), and
- If you plan to be active more than 30
minutes, then stay hydrated by trying to drink some water
every 15 minutes, especially when exercising in hot, humid
conditions. As you age, your sense of thirst tends to decrease and
you may not be able to completely rely on your internal sense of
For more information, download the American Heart Association Heart Healthy Resource
Guide and Exercises for Seniors.