Health Conditions

Stay Active as You Get Older: Quick Tips

An older couple hug and smile.

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.  

Content last updated February 14, 2024

Reviewer Information

This information on physical activity was adapted from materials from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the National Institute on Aging.

Reviewed by:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines Review Team

For more information about staying active as you get older, check out: