Physical activity is especially important as you get older. Staying active can help:
- Lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
- Improve your strength and balance so you can prevent injuries and stay independent
- Lower your pain
- Improve your mood
- Improve symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Improve your ability to think, learn, and make decisions
Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
- If you weren’t physically active before, or you haven’t been active in a while, start slowly. Even 5 minutes of physical activity has health benefits, and you can build up to more over time!
- Choose activities that get your heart beating faster — like walking fast, dancing, swimming, or raking leaves.
- Tell your doctor if you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or unplanned weight loss.
Do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
- Try using exercise bands or lifting hand weights. You can also use books or cans of food as weights or try bodyweight activities like squats or lunges.
- Don’t hold your breath — holding your breath can cause unsafe changes in your blood pressure.
Do balance exercises.
- Practice standing on 1 foot — you can hold on to a chair if you’re feeling unsteady
- Walk backwards or sideways
- Try tai chi, a mind-body exercise that improves balance
- Sign up for a yoga class or try out a yoga video at home
Get a mix of activity types at the same time.
When you do something that counts as more than 1 type of physical activity (like aerobic and muscle-strengthening), you get even more health benefits. For example:
- Try ballroom or salsa dancing
- Rake leaves in the yard
- Take a water aerobics class
Try finding a gym or recreation center near you that’s comfortable and accessible. Many offer classes that can help you get a mix of activity types.
Talk with your doctor if you have questions.
You might have questions about getting active, especially if you have a health problem like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. Your doctor can help. Try asking questions like:
- How can being active help me as I age?
- What activities would you recommend for me?
- Can you refer me to a trained physical activity specialist — like a physical therapist or personal trainer? (A trained physical activity specialist can help you plan a routine that fits your needs and helps you feel your best — physically and mentally.)
If you’re taking any medicine, be sure to ask if it can affect how your body responds to physical activity.