A Recommended Exercise Plan for Older Adults - Step To Health

A Recommended Exercise Plan for Older Adults

Physical activity is a habit that everyone should have, even after the age of 65. Doing exercise is beneficial to health and helps improve your quality of life.
A Recommended Exercise Plan for Older Adults

Last update: 14 December, 2021

There is a recommended exercise plan for older adults. In fact, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an average of 150 minutes of aerobic activity during the week for seniors.

Despite this, very few reach the standards. This is why it’s urgent to implement an exercise plan for older adults.

As the body ages, a series of physiological and morphological transformations are set in motion that can impair life after age 65. Although this process cannot be stopped, we can develop a series of habits that contribute to what is known as active aging. Exercise is part of these habits.

Developing a plan following the age, physical condition, and interests of the older adult is fundamental to ensure their health during this stage. The plan we’ll present today is of great help to ensure cognitive and physical vitality.

Always keep in mind your state of health

Before implementing any exercise plan for older adults, it’s advisable to assess your physical condition. As we age, the body is prone to conditions that limit the amount of activity that can be done during the day.

Some of the most common are the following:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cardiac diseases
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

It can also present what’s known as a geriatric syndrome, which highlights fragility. Therefore, a doctor should perform a general medical examination of the physical condition of the older adult to avoid complications during the activity.

Although the recommendation is 150 minutes of aerobic activity, the exercise plan for older adults doesn’t need to be executed in chains of 30 continuous minutes, five times a week.

The important thing is to reach the goal of 150 minutes per week, with minimum activity periods of 10 minutes. In other words, older adults can do 3 sessions of 10 minutes during the day to complete the recommendations.

Some physical activity in old age is better than none at all. However, the greater the volume, the more effectively the benefits.

Also, some exercises are more appropriate for the elderly, as they reduce the chances of falls, improve balance, mobility, and stability.


As long as it can be can, doctors recommend walking at medium and high intensity in any exercise plan for the 60+ adult. Multiple studies and research have reported its benefits during old age, ranging from muscle strengthening and improved aerobic capacity to balance and equilibrium.

The physical condition of the adult must be taken into account when including walking in the program, although an average of 30-90 minutes a week is already beneficial.

The older person should walk under the supervision of a second person, in case there’s a history of falls or lack of balance. The pace should be increased as the weeks progress.

An older man doing chair yoga
Yoga improves the flexibility of older adults and promotes balance. It’s also a low-impact activity for the joints.


In particular, doctors recommend a very popular variant among older adults: chair yoga. This style modifies the asanas and adapts them so that they can be done seated. It’s therefore perfect for adults who have balance problems, back pain, vertigo, or poor flexibility.

Although the intensity of chair yoga is lower than traditional yoga, evidence suggests that it’s useful for improving the quality of life and physical endurance in older adults.

They can do sessions once a week for one hour, with 15 seconds of tension for each posture. Ideally, they should combine it with meditation and breathing exercises.

Exercise plan for older adults: Underwater aerobics

Often used in rehabilitation therapies, water aerobics is another discipline that can be included in the exercise plan for older adults. Specialists have documented its benefits and it’s a perfect activity if you’re overweight, suffer from joint pain, or back pain.

In this case, it’s best to follow full 12 or 14-week programs, always with the mediation of a qualified instructor. Group sessions can also strengthen social relationships and prevent loneliness during this stage of life.

Some of the exercises included are underwater walks, leg lifts, and arm lifts. Water offers a natural resistance that replaces the use of weights and decreases pressure on muscles and joints.

Pilates for older adults

This is a variant of traditional Pilates classes, in which the intensity of the exercises is partially modified. It’s common for most of the movements to be performed with elastic bands and special balls. We recommend signing up for a class that a professional gives so that the movements are graded according to age.

Research suggests that Pilates is useful for improving static and dynamic balance, reducing the chances of falling, strengthening psychological well-being, and improving mobility and posture in older adults.

Vigorous dancing

Evidence tells us that dancing, regardless of its modality, is recommended to improve strength, muscular endurance, and balance. These are three qualities that gradually deteriorate as we age. Best of all, it’s an activity that isn’t perceived as exercise.

Because of this, dance should be included in any exercise plan for older adults, as long as you choose musical styles that are appealing. It’s an activity they can do at home, without equipment, and with little space.

Functional exercises

Functional exercises are those that involve various muscles to improve balance, posture, and endurance. Scientists have studied how circuits based on them are beneficial for older people, regardless of whether they’re performed at moderate or low intensity.

Changes in pace, direction, level and space allow for upper and lower bodywork in a single routine and can be done at home with little or no equipment. Some of the best are as follows:

  • Leg lifts
  • Chair squats
  • Arm raises
  • Weighted arm extensions.
  • Incline push-ups
  • Hip rotation
  • Exercise with extension bands

If there’s no motivation to exercise in the way of routines, you can always include activities during the week that demand some mobility. The following are an example:

  • Gardening
  • Vacuuming the house
  • Deep cleaning
  • Walking to the store instead of using the car
  • Going down and up the stairs when possible
  • Walking the dog
An older man swimming
Aquatic exercises take care of the joints of older adults, avoiding impact. On the other hand, they generate resistance for muscle development.

The importance of muscles and endurance in old age

Naturally, after reaching the age of 60, a mechanism is set in motion in the human body called sarcopenia. Experts say that its causes are multifcatorial and that its consequences can alter the quality of life and increase the degree of dependence.

In short, it consists of the loss of muscle mass. This begins to manifest itself incipiently from the age of 30. However, it isn’t until the age of 60 that it accelerates to dangerous levels. It cannot be completely avoided, but exercise and a balanced diet are helpful.

This is one of the primary reasons to include an exercise plan for older adults. Not to mention the other benefits:

  • It reduces cardiovascular complications: Research points to 150-300 minutes of aerobic and anaerobic activity as helpful in preventing heart and blood vessel complications.
  • It controls high blood pressure: Hypertension is one of the leading causes of premature death in the world. We know that regular exercise is a treatment to control it, without replacing the intake of conventional drugs.
  • It’s a treatment for type 2 diabetes: It’s been shown that physical activity serves as a metabolic control in patients suffering from this condition. Along with pharmacological treatment and a balanced diet, it contributes to improving the quality of life after the age of 60.
  • It helps strengthen cognition: This includes improved memory skills and processing speed. It also has an impact on psychological well-being, in contrast to a sedentary lifestyle, studies show.
  • It improves strength and balance, two elements that we gradually lose as we age. Scientists have documented that an exercise plan for older adults provides significant improvements in these two criteria.

An exercise plan for older adults

These and other reasons listed throughout the article account for the importance of exercise during old age. Although the first few sessions may be difficult for participants, it’s only a matter of time before the basic movements sink in!

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