Physical activity can improve the health and well-being of older adults

Including regular physical activity in your lifestyle can reduce health risks associated with chronic disease.

Regular exercise and physical activity are important for everyone, including older adults. It’s easy to make excuses, especially when it comes to incorporating more physical exercise into one’s daily routine. Some people might feel like they don’t have the time or energy and find the idea of adding exercise to the already busy mix of family and work commitments to much to handle. Health conditions or fear of getting injured can be other reasons for not being more active.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Physical Activity and Health Report for Older Adults the benefits of physical activity for adults, 65 and older, include:

  • The ability to live independently.
  • Reduction in the risk of falling and fracturing bones.
  • Reduction in the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Improvements in stamina and muscle strength.
  • Maintenance of healthy bones, muscles and joints.
  • Control of joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
  • Reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression and improvements in mood and feelings of well-being.

So where should you start? If you’re already active and have no health restrictions, the recommendation for adults is to exercise at moderate intensity for a minimum of 150 minutes a week, along with muscle strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups. Moderate physical activities include brisk walking, bicycling at a leisurely pace, swimming or playing golf (if you pull or carry your clubs). Muscle strengthening activities include using free weights, digging or shoveling in a garden or carrying around your grandkids.

If you haven’t been active in a while, it’s not too late to start! Physical activity works best if it’s spread out during the course of the week and it can easily be broken into smaller increments during the day. The important thing is to start out slow, be realistic about what you can do and choose activities that you enjoy.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that older adults should consult their doctor before increasing their activity level. It’s also important to consult with a health professional if you:

  • Have a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis or asthma.
  • Take medication to manage a chronic condition.
  • Have lung, liver or kidney disease.
  • Have had joint replacement therapy.
  • Smoke. 

MSU Extension offers a number of programs that promote healthy behavior changes that can help improve overall health and well-being. Contact your local MSU Extension office for more information.

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