Balancing Calories


grandmother and granddaughter raking leavesBalancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories burned by being physically active helps to maintain a healthy weight. Check your weight once a week. Then you’ll know whether you are balancing the calories in and calories out or whether you need to be more active.

How much physical activity? Although any amount of regular physical activity is good for you, aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Unless you are already that active, you won’t do that much all at once—10-minute sessions several times a day on most days are fine.

People over age 65 should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions will allow. Doing anything is better than doing nothing at all.

Balancing Calories (Energy) In and Calories Out
Energy in Equals Energy out Maintaining Weight
Your weight will stay the same when the calories you eat and drink equal the calories you burn.
Energy in is Less than Energy out Losing Weight
You will lose weight when the calories you eat and drink are less than the calories you burn.
Energy in is Greater than Energy out Gaining Weight
You will gain weight when the calories you eat and drink are greater than the calories you burn.

Most older people can be moderately active. But you might want to talk to your doctor if you aren’t used to energetic activity and you want to start a vigorous exercise program or significantly increase your physical activity. You should also check with your doctor if you have health concerns like the following:

  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or pressure
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • blood clots
  • joint swelling
  • a hernia
  • recent hip or back surgery

grandfather and grandchild rowing a canoeYour doctor might have some safety tips or suggest certain types of exercise for you.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer. Think about the kinds of physical activities that you enjoy—for example, walking, running, bicycling, gardening, housecleaning, swimming, or dancing. Try to make time to do what you enjoy on most days of the week. And then increase how long you do it, or add another fun activity.



The National Institute on Aging (NIA) wants you to be more physically active. To help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life, NIA created the Go4Life campaign. Go4Life offers a variety of free, evidence-based resources for older adults in one convenient spot.

On the Go4Life website, you will find:

You can also order Go4Life materials by calling NIA at 1-800-222-2225 (toll-free).

Go 4 Life products

Go4Life is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What's On Your Plate? is based on the nutrition recommendations for older adults in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).