Health Conditions

Stay Active as You Get Older: Quick Tips

An older couple hug and smile.

Physical activity is good for people of all ages. 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

Before you start...

If you have a health problem — like heart disease, diabetes, or obesity — talk to your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.

Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

  • If you weren't physically active before, 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.
  • Breathe out as you lift the weight, and breathe in as you lower it. 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.
  • Learn 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

Content last updated November 29, 2023

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: