Seniors and Exercise

Exercise can help prevent disease, improve balance and strength and provide social opportunities. See more healthy aging pictures.

Why is exercise important?

  • It strengthens your heart
  • Improves your circulation
  • Keeps muscles in tone
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Helps with weight control
  • Helps hold down your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
  • Makes you look and feel better

Whew! Are those enough reasons? Exercise also helps prevent disease and extends and improves your quality of life. Recent studies suggest regular exercise may help prevent breast cancer.

Older adults who exercise regularly tend not only to be stronger and have better balance and coordination, but to be better able to manage the sorts of daily chores that allow people to remain independent. They are also more likely to be physically fit.

Fitness is having the health, strength, endurance and range of motion needed to do physical work without becoming exhausted. A fit person can perform better and with less effort in sports and other physical activities and therefore is more likely to enjoy them.

A fit person is also less likely to develop heart disease — an important finding given that heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability among older people.

Despite these benefits, a National Center for Health Statistics survey in 1995 showed that only about 25 percent of older Americans get exercise regularly. Another study showed that 58 percent of older Americans believe they get as much exercise as they need.

How much exercise do seniors need?

Regular exercise is much more important for your health than strenuous exercise. In fact, sudden unaccustomed exercise or too strenuous exercise can strain weak muscles and joints and cause problems.

It is far better to choose an exercise that doesn't stress your joints or require special equipment or other people. Instead, select an activity that you can do every day, wherever you happen to be.

Probably the easiest and most convenient form of exercise for most older people is walking. Start by walking at least a mile a day and gradually increase to whatever is comfortable, manageable and makes you feel good.