Exercise For Seniors (Can You Be Too Old To Exercise?)


You’re never too old to exercise. While fitness goals for older adults should be modified to accommodate any physical or medical concerns, the body needs to breathe, move, get the heart rate up, and physically engage with the world around it to be its best self. And, don’t forget that mental exercises count, too!

Establishing Fitness Goals For Older Adults

Seniors who keep their bodies and minds active live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life. Also, recent studies show living a sedentary lifestyle makes you two-times more likely to die prematurely.

Benefits of exercises for 65 year olds and up include:

  • Alleviating symptoms of existing health conditions
  • Fall prevention, because muscles are stronger and exercise enhances balance and coordination
  • Reduced risk of heart attack/stroke
  • Higher bone density, enhanced via weight-bearing exercises
  • Reduced risk of developing dementia, and slowing down the progression of existing Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Increased confidence and independence

Here are some tips for ensuring you or the senior loved ones in your life get adequate exercise.

1. Change it up from day-to-day

Different types of exercises yield different benefits.

For example, endurance exercises (aerobics or water exercise classes, biking, brisk walking, and dancing) are good for getting the heart rate up, stimulating circulation, and mood elevation. Other forms of exercise such as yoga, gentle weight lifting, and resistance band exercises work to strengthen muscles and increase bone density.

Fitness goals for older adults should be well-planned and include varied activities from day to day, so your body is benefitting from multiple types of movement, cardio boosting, strength, and flexibility.

2. Try to make swimming and water exercise a priority

Swimming is considered an ideal exercise for anyone, especially seniors. Swimming laps, and using kickboards and paddles help to build stamina, provide cardiovascular benefits, and the resistance from the water is considered a form of weight-bearing exercise.

If you also include a water aerobics class into the mix, your instructor will provide weights and different accessories that increase resistance for enhanced muscle toning (and improved bone density).

The supportive nature of water offers a low-impact environment for ankles, knees, joints, and hips, and while the exercises help with balance, falls in a water environment makes for an entertaining splash, rather than a debilitating break.

3. Take yoga, pilates, or similar classes focusing on strength, balance, and flexibility

Yoga and pilates are two excellent forms of exercises for 65 year olds and up that focus on strength, balance, and flexibility.

Look for courses that are geared for seniors or that have “restorative” or “rejuvenating” in their title. In addition to all of the physical benefits, yoga inherently includes breathing practices that are proven to increase oxygenation, boost moods, and increase lung capacity.

Ensure that the course is taught by an instructor with a current license, optimally one who has a specialization in the geriatric population.

4. Exercises for homebound, chairbound, or bed-bound seniors

Being limited to the home, chair, or bed is no reason to stop moving. Seniors who spend most of their time in a sedentary position have a greater need for regular exercise than those who move around more independently.

If you can afford to do so, hire a personal trainer or physical therapist for one to three sessions and receive specific instructions. If that isn’t an option, use free/low-cost resources out there, including DVDs, websites, and YouTube videos.

Recommendations include:

5. Visit the Go4Life website

Speaking of NIA’s Go4Life program, we highly recommend visiting the Go4Life website, which has a wealth of resources that are specific to seniors and exercise. It offers workout instructions, videos, tips for staying motivated, and other free information and links.

These resources are sure to assist you in establishing appropriate fitness goals for older adults.

6. Check-in with a local senior center to learn more about exercise options

Finally, don’t forget about your local senior center. Give them a call or stop by to learn more about the senior exercise options in your community – not to mention the classes, programs, and social events offered through the center.

Try to pepper a solo, home exercise routine with group classes whenever possible. Getting out of the house and into a peer group can be essential to a senior’s sense of belonging and purpose, and keeps the social life richer.

If driving is an issue, investigate senior transportation options in your area – and the senior center will have lots of information about those options as well.

7. Consider using a local home care agency for companion services

Most adults find it’s easier to exercise more often and keep working towards goals when they have a partner or two to keep them motivated.

If your senior loved one’s life has gone stagnant and lacks much-needed physical and mental stimulation, consider hiring a companion from an experienced home care agency in your area.

If you worry about how to deal with aging parent’s health, companions can make exercise a part of their workday – getting your loved one to the gym, their favorite workout class, or can partner with them to complete daily home exercises.

This also means the senior is checked on regularly, and companions will alert you to any signs that your parents or grandparents require more help to remain at home.

Age-Appropriate Exercises For 65 Year Olds And Beyond

Not only are you never too old to exercise, but we’d also argue that exercise becomes increasingly important to health and quality of life as we age. So, lace up those sneakers and get moving!

Get support on how to deal with aging parents health from these related resources: