Before you start a new exercise routine, please be sure to consult with your doctor.

Are you getting enough physical activity in your daily routine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines physical activity as any movement that uses energy and moves muscles. But research shows that the older you get, the less likely you are to move.

In fact, by age 75, about 40% of people engage in no physical activity at all.

Regular physical activity is important at any age, but especially for older adults. Physical activity keeps muscles, joints, and bones healthy; reduces your disease risk; helps reduce your risk of falls and fractures; and more.

Here’s a look at the importance of staying active in older adulthood — and how you can add more movement into your daily routine.

Staying active in older adulthood has many benefits, including:

Reduced risk of chronic disease

Inactivity can lead to a host of health issues and may even cause certain chronic diseases, 2017 research suggests. Regular activity in older adulthood can help reduce your risk of common health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease: Staying active helps lower cardiovascular risks and can help improve your health if you’re already managing a heart condition.
  • Certain cancers: According to guidelines from the American Cancer Society, research links physical activity to a lower risk of cancer, including breast, colorectal, kidney, liver, lung, and thyroid cancers.
  • Diabetes: Aerobic exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and help delay type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure: Cardiovascular benefits of staying active help keep the heart working properly, which lowers the risk of high blood pressure.

Improved cognitive function

Brain functioning declines with age, but regular physical activity may help you preserve your ability to think. Exercise promotes the growth of the hippocampus in the brain, which is essential for memory, according to 2014 research. Physical activity has also been shown to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, 2017 research notes.

Stronger muscles and bones

Regular physical activity releases hormones in the body that limit muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth. Staying active in older adulthood can help keep you from developing osteoporosis, suggests a 2020 research review. Physical activity also builds strength and balance, which can help prevent falls.

Better mental health

Research from 2016 suggests that exercise may help boost mood and control depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms by increasing the production of endorphins, known as feel-good hormones.

Not sure if you’re getting enough physical activity? Here’s a look at what the CDC recommends for people over age 65:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, such as running
  • muscle-strengthening activities that target varying muscle groups twice per week
  • balance activities three days per week

By adding different types of exercises to your everyday routine, you can maintain your fitness as you age. While any exercise is better than none, a mix of aerobic, strength, and balance exercises is the ideal combination if you’re over age 65.

It can be tough to motivate yourself to get physical, though. If spending time standing on one leg or taking a walk around your neighborhood doesn’t sound very exciting, here are a few ways to make exercise more enjoyable:

  • Walk with a friend: Working out with a partner makes the experience more enjoyable, whether in person, over the phone, or through a video call. If there’s a long-distance friend or family member you’ve been meaning to catch up with, make it a point to schedule a call regularly and take them along with you on your walk to help you stick to it.
  • Join a virtual challenge: Fitness apps and trackers are a great way to monitor your progress and help keep you motivated. Some apps even allow you to post your progress to community pages and join fitness challenges.
  • Explore group fitness: Was there an activity you loved as a child or always wanted to try? Do some research and explore offerings in your neighborhood. Many dance studios, community pools, and other venues offer classes geared toward older adults. You might even discover a new hobby.

If you’re over age 65, chances are high that you live with a chronic health condition. While managing symptoms of a chronic condition can make staying active challenging, exercise is possible — and may even help improve symptoms.

It’s important to speak with your doctor about how to exercise safely with your chronic condition before engaging in a new exercise routine. Here are a few important things to remember about certain conditions:

  • Diabetes: Tracking blood sugar before, during, and after physical activity is critical for older adults with diabetes. Ask your doctor about the best time of day to engage in physical activity and discuss the medications you’re currently taking.
  • Heart disease: Aerobic activity benefits the cardiovascular system. But if you have heart disease, you need to be careful not to overexert yourself when engaging in physical exercise. Start slowly and take rest breaks as needed.
  • High blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, talk with a healthcare professional before engaging in an exercise routine. If you’re short of breath or your heart is beating too fast, stop and rest.
  • Arthritis: It can be tough to think about moving your body when you’re experiencing physical pain. But exercise may help relieve arthritis pain and stiffness, according to the CDC. Stick to low impact workouts that won’t strain your joints and muscles.

Physical activity can improve your health and help you live longer, but it’s important to take the proper steps to avoid injury. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Get a physical exam: Talk with a doctor about incorporating more activity into your daily routine. Have them evaluate your current physical condition and medical history before starting a workout routine to ensure you’re doing so safely.
  • Don’t skip the warmup: Take 5 minutes before and after physical activity to slowly stretch your body and perform light cardio exercises, such as jogging in place, to help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Start slow: It’s important to ease yourself into any new exercise routine. Allow your body to get familiar and confident with the movements you’re performing by going at a slow, comfortable pace at first.
  • Rest when injured: Do not try to work through an injury — even a minor one. And if you’re experiencing pain after a workout, it’s important to consult a doctor.

Engaging in regular physical activity is very important for health and longevity. If you’re over age 65, exercising safely and consistently can greatly improve your overall health and well-being.

Before you start a new routine, speak with a doctor about how to exercise safely.