An over-head image of an older adult woman stretching on a yoga mat
Exercise is crucial for healthy aging in older adults. A well-rounded exercise plan with careful consideration of physical limitations can help seniors maintain good physical and mental health.

Exercise and physical activity are critical for health and mental well-being, especially as you age. Older adults who exercise or have physically active lifestyles have lower rates of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other age-related conditions. Here, we’ll discuss the best exercises for older adults. Whether you prefer chair exercises, bed exercises, or prefer high mobility exercises, you can remain active as you age.

What is the recommended amount of exercise for seniors?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that older people get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This includes activities like taking a walk or a leisurely bike ride. The agency also suggests 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week as an alternative. This could include jogging, running, or a fast bike ride. In addition, the CDC recommends strength-building activities two days per week, ideally targeting all major muscle groups. Finally, balance-building exercises are recommended three days per week.

What kinds of exercises are best during aging?

Generally, a well-rounded fitness plan that includes cardio, resistance training, flexibility exercises, and mindfulness sessions is best for older adults. This type of plan may not be feasible for everyone. As a result, exercise plans should be chosen based on physical ability with advice from your care providers. Mobility is a key deciding factor for exercise selection.

Exercises for seniors with high mobility

People who can get up and move around relatively easily can do activities like swimming, running, jogging, hiking, dancing, and more. Stretching exercises are important to help preserve mobility. Finally, incorporate resistance exercises to maintain muscle tone.

Exercises for seniors with limited mobility

If your mobility is limited, but you can still get up and walk around, consider taking walks as a form of exercise. Swimming is a great low-impact option for people with joint pain. In addition, stretching exercises are very important, especially if you have low mobility.

Chair exercises for seniors

There are several exercises that can be done while seated. Resistance training can be performed in a chair with or without weights. Likewise, you can do several stretching exercises in a chair, such as chair yoga. Finally, seated aerobic exercises can support cardiovascular health.

Bed exercises for seniors

Older people who spend most of their time in bed can also get quality exercise. People in bed can maintain abdominal strength by sitting up periodically. Limb strength can be maintained by lifting and holding up each limb or pushing against resistance. Bed exercises help maintain strength and flexibility while reducing the risk of bed sores.

How does exercise affect age-related changes and conditions?

Aging is a process that affects every body system. Fortunately, exercise does too. The benefits of exercise on aging have positive musculoskeletal, physiological, and neurological effects. It also has unique benefits for several age-related diseases.

Exercise has benefits for the aging brain as well. Exercise in older age protects cognition and memory, which usually declines as one gets older. In addition, exercise helps reduce mood disorder symptoms and improve sleep quality. As a result, the importance of physical activity and exercise during aging cannot be overstated. 

Exercise and musculoskeletal health

It is no secret that muscles and bones change as a person ages. Most people lose some muscle mass and bone density as part of aging. This can increase the risk of falls and make them far more damaging if they occur. In addition, joint health gets worse over time, leading to pain and mobility issues that significantly impact quality of life.

Exercise has a powerful impact on musculoskeletal health for older people. Research shows that low-impact exercise and resistance training helps increase bone density in older individuals. In addition, a systematic review of 22 research articles found that flexibility training helped improve their range of motion. But, the analysis was not conclusive as to the best exercise regimen for flexibility. Finally, exercise can slow or even reverse the muscle weakening caused by aging.

Exercise and the physiology of aging

Aging is characterized by changes in physiology. Aging weakens the heart and stiffens arteries, leading to increased blood pressure and risk of stroke. The lungs also become more rigid and less efficient at oxygen exchange. The kidneys and liver both decrease in function over time. Finally, aging also negatively affects the digestive system and hormone balance.

Exercise can greatly improve cardiovascular health in older people. Moderate intensity reduces cardiovascular risks and overall mortality rates. Research has also found that regular exercise can slow down negative changes in lung health. In addition, moderate exercise helps improve kidney function and prevent liver disease and cancer. Exercise even helps improve the balance of bacteria in the gut.

Exercise, neurology, and mood

Cognition and memory decline as one gets older. In addition, mood disorders like depression and anxiety are common in older people. Advancing age is also tied to poor sleep. Luckily, exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, older adults who exercise are more likely to sleep better than those who do not.

Exercise and Age-Related Conditions

Conditions like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, and stroke are more common in older people. Exercise is known to reduce older people’s odds of developing new cancers. Likewise, exercise is also good for maintaining cardiovascular health.