“After walking on a treadmill at the local community center, I knew I’d be happier outside. So, I got a step counter and started walking in my neighborhood. Since then, I’ve seen yellow tulips bloom in spring and red dogwood leaves drop in fall. I always come home with more energy and happy to go on with the rest of the day.” Marian (age 81)
“Both my wife and I have heart problems. About 2 years ago, we joined our local health club, where we do both endurance and strength training exercises. On the off days, we walk near our house. It’s been lifesaving for us.” Bob (age 69)
These older adults are living proof that exercise and physical activity are good for you, no matter how old you are. In fact, staying active can help you:
You don’t need to buy special clothes or belong to a gym to become more active. Physical activity can and should be part of your everyday life. Find things you like to do. Go for brisk walks. Ride a bike. Dance. Work around the house. Garden. Climb stairs. Swim. Rake leaves. Try different kinds of activities that keep you moving. Look for new ways to build physical activity into your daily routine.
To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise — 1) endurance, 2) strength, 3) balance, and 4) flexibility.
Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of physical activity. You can still exercise even if you have a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, physical activity may help. For most older adults, brisk walking, riding a bike, swimming, weight lifting, and gardening are safe, especially if you build up slowly. But, check with your doctor if you are over 50 and you aren’t used to energetic activity. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:
Here are some things you can do to make sure you are exercising safely:
Exercise should not hurt or make you feel really tired. You might feel some soreness, a little discomfort, or a bit weary, but you should not feel pain. In fact, in many ways, being active will probably make you feel better.
Local fitness centers or hospitals might be able to help you find a physical activity program that works for you. You also can check with nearby religious groups, senior and civic centers, parks, recreation associations, YMCAs, YWCAs, or even area shopping malls for exercise, wellness, or walking programs.
Looking for more information on how to exercise safely? Check out Go4Life®, at www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life. This exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging has exercises, success stories, and free video and print materials.
Many groups have information about physical activity and exercise for older adults. The following list of resources will help you get started:
American College of Sports Medicine
401 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3233
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
National Library of Medicine
“Exercise for Seniors”
“Exercise and Physical Fitness”
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
1101 Wootton Parkway, Suite 560
Rockville, MD 20852
For more information on health and aging, contact:
National Institute on Aging
P.O. Box 8057
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057
To sign up for regular email alerts about new publications and other information from the NIA, go to www.nia.nih.gov/health.
Visit www.nihseniorhealth.gov, a senior-friendly website from the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine. This website has health and wellness information for older adults. Special features make it simple to use. For example, you can click on a button to make the type larger.
National Institute on Aging
National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Go4Life is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Publication Date: June 2013
Page Last Updated: February 13, 2014