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Making Physical Activity a Part of an Older Adult's Life

When it comes to getting the physical activity you need each week, it's important to pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you stick with them.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • man riding a bicycleTry to do a variety of activities. This can make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Regular physical activity is still safe and beneficial even if you have problems doing normal daily activities, such as climbing stairs or walking.
  • If you have to take a break from your regular workout routine due to an illness such as the flu, be sure to start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.
  • To get to and stay at a healthy weight, start by doing the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic activity each week. Keep in mind that you may need to do more activity or reduce the number of calories you eat to get to your desired weight.

Improving Your Balance

Are you at risk for falling because you've fallen in the past or have trouble walking? Older adults who are at risk for falling should do exercises that help them with balance. Try to do balance training on at least 3 days a week and do standardized exercises from a program that's been proven to reduce falls. These exercises might include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, and practicing standing from a sitting position. Tai chi, a form of martial arts developed in China, may also help with balance.

What if you have a chronic condition?

If you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease it doesn't mean you can't be active. In fact, it's just the opposite. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and even reduce your risk of developing other conditions.

Talk with your doctor to find out if your health condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum Guidelines, try to do as much as you can. What's important is that you avoid being inactive. Even 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is good for you.

What if you have a disability?

If you are an older adult with a disability, regular physical activity can provide you with important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs and muscles, improved mental health and a better ability to do everyday tasks. It's best to talk with your health care provider before you begin a physical activity routine. Try to get advice from a professional with experience in physical activity and disability. They can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for you and your abilities. If you are looking for additional information, visit The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

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When to Check With Your Doctor

Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people, but if you have a health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.

Here's what different older adults are doing to meet the Guidelines: