Essential Health Info

Older Adults & Exercise Physiology

Older Adults

Emerging evidence suggests that exercise has healthy benefits as we age.  Aging is a fact of life. When older adults exercise, they enhance the quality of their life.  However, how safe is it to exercise?  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, it is safe for most to exercise.  Even those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2019).  If your doctor has approved your ability to exercise, then here are some benefits.

Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults

  1.  Exercising can prevent disease.  It helps our immune system overall!  The more endurance you build up, the more your circulatory system improves (2019).  Energy is built while performing aerobic movements like walking.
  2.  Social engagement increases!  According to Green Fields, exercising with others gives older adults a sense of purpose (Leyden, 2020).  Sometimes loneliness and depression are two strong mental blocks aging individuals combat daily (2020).  The older we get, the more we experience losing loved ones like family members and friends.  It is crucial to have a group of people around you to give your support during the last stage of your life!
  3.  Exercising improves mental health and cognition.  It increases your quality of sleep.  Also, it helps release endorphins that will give you a satisfied feeling (2020).  Not to mention, your motor skills are sharpened.  There is a lower risk for dementia for those who actively engage in exercise (2020).

Time Frame of Exercise

The amount of time aging individuals should spend on exercise depends on each person.  Some studies show two and half hours a week performing aerobic exercises is a perfect time frame.  Moreover, physicians suggest trying the four types of exercises such as endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2019).  An exercise schedule may look like this:

  • Aerobic (endurance) exercise 2.5 hours a week
  • Or about an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous exercise like jogging a week
  • Strength training two days a week
  • Balance and Flexibility can be worked on each day

Where to Exercise

Using your physical environment around you can provide the best place to exercise.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walking your pet, and even working in a garden are perfect places to get physical activity.  Remember to warm up and cool down when you decide to exercise (2019).  Five minutes before and after exercise use static stretching that will best help your muscles.  Therefore, static stretching is a controlled stretch that improves your range of motion by holding a position in place for 10 to 60 seconds (Williams, 2019).  For more information on stretching, check out this website


Older adults should always check with their doctor before attempting any type of exercise.  Also, these are some signs you might want to watch out, or watch for once you have started to exercise (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2019):

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain and pressure
  • Blood clots or infections
  • Sores that will not heal
  • Joint swelling
  • Hernia
  • Recent surgery

One of the more important keys to exercising is having the sense to know when to rest or completely stop.  Self-awareness is a characteristic you must obtain when deciding to exercise.  Even if your doctor has cleared you, remember to keep watch over your body!  The best way to exercise is with a group of people and a certified trainer for your age group.  It is never too late to get started!

Author:  Jamie Moore Sam Houston State University Pre-Nursing


American Academy of Family Physicians. (2019, August 29). Exercise and Seniors. Familydoctor.Org.

Leyden, C. (2020, October 28). 5 Benefits of Exercise for Seniors and Aging Adults. The GreenFields Continuing Care Community | Lancaster, NY.

Williams, L. W. (2019, October 3). Tips for Adding Static or Ballistic Stretching to Your Daily Routine. Verywell Fit.

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