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The best exercises for older adults

Being physically active helps keep you healthier as you age. Here’s how to do it safely.

As you get older, it’s as important as ever to be physically active. Regular exercise helps you maintain your independence and stay healthier. It makes it possible for you to do more and live in less pain. But should older adults do the same types of exercise as people who are younger?

When it comes to the best exercises for older adults, the key is to find activities you want to do and that you will do consistently. That means if you still enjoy doing the same types of activities as you did when you were younger, there’s no reason not to do them as long as you are able. You may just need to take things down a notch or two, so you avoid injury. Some people find new activities they enjoy as they get older. Infusing new life into your workout routine always keeps things fresh and interesting.

Trying to decide what type of exercise to do? Here are some good choices for older adults.

  • Aerobic Exercises – It’s recommended that older adults get at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. That equates to 30 minutes of exercise five days per week. Some of the best choices for older adults include walking, cycling, dancing, swimming and using an elliptical trainer. These are low-impact activities that get the heart pumping and the lungs working harder.
  • Strength Training Exercises – In addition to aerobic exercise, it’s also important for seniors to do exercise that strengthens muscles. As we age, muscle and bone mass diminish naturally, but regular strength training helps keep the body as strong as possible. This can be accomplished by doing exercises that use light free weights, resistance bands or even your own body weight.
  • Flexibility Exercises – Being able to move your body through its full range of motion gets harder to do as you get older. That’s why it’s important to incorporate activities that improve flexibility into your exercise routine. Exercises focused on improving flexibility will help you maintain your mobility and help improve balance. Consider doing gentle stretches each day. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good options, and many older adults enjoy the class aspect of these activities.
  • Balance Exercises – One of the most common causes of serious injury in older adults is falls. Performing exercises that help improve your balance can minimize your risk of falling. Many of the exercises that improve flexibility, such as yoga and Tai Chi, also help improve your balance. Strengthening the muscles in your hips and legs also reduces your risk of falling.

If you are new to exercise, have recently been injured or have physical limitations or health conditions, consider working with a physical therapist or personal trainer first. They can help guide you towards the type of exercises that will be best for you and will teach you how to do them safely and effectively. Group classes geared to older adults are another good option because they provide guidance, support and camaraderie while you exercise. There are even exercise classes that can be done while sitting in a chair.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 15, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Andrew Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS
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