John and Patty

Eating healthy and finding safe ways to get active

A couple dances together
John and Patty sitting next to one another and smiling

As you age, it’s more important than ever to eat healthy and be active. Doing both can help you manage health problems and prevent new ones — so you can stay active and independent.

Learn how John and Patty are finding creative ways to stay active indoors —and how they eat healthy even when they don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables.

How we move our way

As we’re getting older, being active has become more of a challenge for us. Patty’s doctor recently prescribed a walker for her after she had a fall. But our neighborhood has a lot of hills, and the sidewalks are bumpy and cracked. And since we don’t own a car to drive to the park, getting active outside isn’t the safest option.

So we found new ways to get active together. Our doctor recommended chair exercises, so now we do knee raises or shoulder presses while we’re watching TV at night. And a few mornings a week we take a walk through the halls of our apartment building — sometimes a neighbor even joins us!

John and Patty dancing

Older adults need a mix of physical activity to stay healthy

5 circles, each containing a stick figure doing an aerobic activity: swimming, walking a dog, doing household chores, stretching, and dancing.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Older adults need at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity — anything that gets the heart beating faster. You can break it up over the whole week however you want. All sorts of activities count — even things you do anyway, like walking the dog or vacuuming.


Muscle-strengthening activity

It’s also important to do muscle-strengthening activities 2 days a week, especially as you get older. For example, try lifting light weights or water bottles. Mix in stretches and do activities to improve your balance, like marching in place while you hold on to a chair. Using your muscles in different ways helps keep your body strong and lowers your risk of falling.

If that sounds like too much, start slow and do what you can — when it comes to being active, something is always better than nothing!

3 circles, each containing a stick figure doing a muscle-strengthening activity: lifting weights, gardening and weeding, and practicing yoga.

How we make every bite count

Eating healthy has always been important to us. We really like trying out recipes with lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and healthy protein foods like fish and beans. But since we rely on family members for rides, we don’t get to shop for fresh foods as often as we’d like.

We’ve learned that we can still make our favorite healthy recipes though —just with slightly different ingredients. We buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which are just as nutritious as fresh options and last for months in the freezer. For protein foods, we buy canned foods like beans and tuna — and we check the Nutrition Facts label to pick options with less salt, sugar, and saturated fat. Plus, canned foods are often cheaper than fresh varieties, which is a nice bonus!

John and Patty sitting at the kitchen table laughing

Make every bite count! Older adults need plenty of nutrients but fewer calories, so it’s important to get the most out of your meals. Try following these tips:

Go for variety. Choosing healthy options from each food group — fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy — helps your body get what it needs and lowers your risk of health problems.

Choose foods with less added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (salt). When you’re buying packaged foods, use the Nutrition Facts label to guide you. Try cooking more at home so you have more control over what ingredients go into your food.

Eat enough protein. Healthy protein foods — like seafood, beans, nuts, and lean meats — help keep your muscles strong.

Get more vitamin B12. Many older adults have trouble getting enough B12. You can get it from eating meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and fortified foods like soy beverages and some whole-grain breakfast cereals.

Drink plenty of water. As you age, you may find that you’re not thirsty as often — but staying hydrated is still important. Water is best, but you can also try some unsweetened tea or 100% fruit or vegetable juice for variety.

Food tastes better with company. Enjoy meals with friends or family members as often as possible. Take advantage of technology, like a smartphone or laptop, to enjoy meals virtually with loved ones who don’t live nearby.

Read more stories about eating healthy along with being active

Want to learn more about making healthy changes? Check out these resources: has information about how to meet your unique nutrition needs as you age — including an option to create your personalized MyPlate Plan, this fact sheet with healthy eating tips for older adults, and guidance on limiting sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat.

Check out this factsheet on building a healthy eating routine as you get older.

Move Your Way is your go-to resource for tips to help you get moving. Try the interactive tool to build your activity plan, and check out these fact sheets with information about physical activity for older adults and example of activities to try.