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.