Exercise for the Aging Adult Back »

This article was written by Lindsay Hadlock, former Community Food Policy Extension Field Specialist.

Exercise is important at every age in the lifespan. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the population that is growing most rapidly are those 65 years and older, with approximately 70 million individuals reaching this age range by 2030. As a part of normal aging, the risk for some chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and type 2 diabetes increases with age. Sarcopenia, or the age related loss of muscle mass, also gradually increases as we age. While exercise cannot completely eliminate the risk for chronic disease and sarcopenia, it can delay or reduce your risk for developing them. Additionally, exercise is a great way to maintain a good quality of life and independence.

Aging adults should incorporate a well-rounded exercise routine into their daily lives that includes cardiovascular, strength, balance and flexibility components. Cardiovascular exercises keep your body fit and able to walk around, run errands, and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and metabolic system. Muscle strengthening exercises boost metabolism, stave of sarcopenia, aid in balance, protect against injury and prevent osteoporosis. Balance exercises are very important, as the risk for falling increases as we age. Flexibility is very important and aids in preventing injury and maintaining balance. Before beginning an exercise program, you should consult with your physician to decide if you are ready to begin an exercise program. Remember, it is never too late to start being active, aging adults experience numerous benefits and improvements in physical health through exercise regardless of what age they start being active.

Exercise Frequency/Time Intensity Type

3-5 days per week

150 minutes of moderate intensity OR 75 minutes of vigorous intensity

* Can be accumulated in 10 minutes bouts.


*On a 10 point scale where 0 is sitting and 10 is working as hard as you possibly can, moderate activity is a 5-6 and vigorous activity is a 7 or 8.

Brisk Walking
Strength 2-3 days per week

*Wait at least 48 hours between sessions

3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

Lighter weights, increasing gradually to heavier weights Machine weight circuits
Body weight exercises
Exercises that work all major muscle groups
Resistance bands
Balance 2-3 days per week   Yoga
Tai chi
One-legged stands
Heel-to-toe Walk

At least 2-3 days per week.

10-30 seconds per stretch

3-4 sets per muscle group

Slow stretch to the point of tension mild discomfort Stretch each major muscle group including, arms, legs, chest, back, hips, abdomen and shoulders
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