It's never too
late to start getting active. Being fit is important for
everyone. You can benefit from physical activity even if you think of yourself
as "elderly" or you already have conditions such as arthritis or heart
disease. Being more active will help you feel better and may even
help you live longer.
If you haven't been
active for a long time, you may have no idea where to start. The important
thing is to take that first step—and make that first step a small one.
Be smart about exercise
Talk to your doctor before you start a fitness program, especially if you are older or worried about how exercise might affect your health.
You may have health problems that limit what you can do.
Don't overdo it! If it hurts, stop. Some minor soreness or
stiffness is to be expected at first, but pain is a warning sign to
If you have been inactive for years, start with about 5 to 10
minutes of activity at a time, and increase your time as you get more
comfortable with the activity.
Try to improve only a little bit at a time. Pick one area for
improvement first. Set your personal goal in that area, and meet the goal before
trying another area.
Being active can make life
Many people become less active
as they age, but staying active—or getting active, if you
aren't already—has definite benefits.
Aerobic exercise strengthens
your heart—which improves your health—and gives you more energy to do the
things you like to do. It can also increase the amount of sleep you
get at night and may reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep.
Aqua therapy may be a good choice for some older adults.
Strengthening exercises can help you
maintain your muscle, strengthen bones, and protect knees and other joints.
These exercises include
resistance training, such as lifting weights.
Flexibility and stretching—which help provide a full range of
motion for muscles and
joints—can help you function at home, at work, and
socially. Everyday tasks that are hard for you, such as tying shoelaces or reaching
to a shelf, may become easier. When you stay flexible, you also keep a more
natural walking pattern and decrease your chance of falling. Most flexibility
that seems to be lost through aging is caused not by aging
but by inactivity or lack of movement.
Balance exercises help you have good
posture. They can also be helpful to improve coordination and reduce your risk
for falls. One type of balance exercise is to stand on one leg for 10 seconds.
Stand on a flat surface and use a stable object (such as a heavy chair) for
support. Yoga classes or DVDs can teach you poses that help improve
Being active can keep you
Exercise also has
these specific health benefits for older adults.
heart failure symptoms and shortens hospital
Helps keep postmenopausal women
from losing bone density.
Helps joints work better, with less pain,
Improves sleep and reduces
Helps your brain work better and improves
May lower the risk of some cancers.
Lowers the risk of:
Hip and spinal fractures.
Coronary artery disease.
Physical activity doesn't have to
be strenuous. Older adults can gain great health benefits
with a moderate amount of physical activity. This can be done in longer
moderately intense activities (such as walking) or in
shorter sessions of more
vigorous activities (such as fast walking or
Warning signs for older adults
When you exercise,
it's normal to have some minor muscle and joint soreness.
But other signs may point to something more serious. Stop exercising if:
You have pain in your chest or upper
belly that may spread to your neck,
jaw, upper back, shoulder, and arms. Call
911 right away if
this happens. Chest pain can be a sign of a
You are panting or are very
short of breath.
You feel sick to your stomach.
You have pain, joint discomfort, or muscle
cramps that won't go away.
American College of Sports Medicine, et al. (2009). Position stand: Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(7): 1510–1530.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.