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How Much Physical Activity Do Seniors Need?

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A group of seniors in a senior living facility sitting and exercising together under the supervision of a trained staff.

Taking care of your physical health has many different benefits. By keeping in good shape, you’re making sure that it’s easier to move around in your day-to-day life, you keep your heart strong, and that you’re able to keep doing the things you love to do with minimized pain and stiffness. As we get older, this becomes even more important. So how much physical activity do older adults need?

It’s recommended that people over the age of 65 perform at least 150 minutes a week of low-intensity exercises, like walking or doing yoga, according to the CDC. If you prefer more challenging or faster-paced exercise, you can substitute 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity instead, like jogging or joining a fitness class. 

For people in assisted living or independent living communities, it’s a good idea to look around and see if your community has any fitness programs on-site. For example, here at Minnehaha Senior Living, we have several programs and amenities available and a focus on making sure our residents have access to what they need to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

How Much Exercise Is Recommended for Seniors?

For people over the age of 65, there are rough guidelines for making sure you’re staying physically healthy. By following these guidelines, you’re actively taking steps to keep your muscles, joints, and heart in great shape. Whether you’re actively pursuing low-intensity or high-intensity exercises, there’s always an option for exercise. There are all sorts of physical activities designed for seniors to make sure everybody has a way to stay physically healthy.

These guidelines include:

  • 150 minutes a week of low-intensity or low-impact exercises
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises 2 days a week
  • Balance exercises 3 times a week


  • 75 minutes a week of high-intensity or high-impact exercises
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises 2 days a week
  • Balance exercises 3 times a week
A group of really fit older adults doing yoga while lying on a mat to help stretch their leg muscles as they pull their knees toward the chest.

Low-Intensity Exercises for Seniors

These exercises focus on stretching your muscles and joints without straining them too much. They also focus on making you breathe faster and making your heart work harder. It’s important to remember that even if you don’t reach the full recommended 150 minutes a week, any physical activity is better than none!

Some recommended exercises include:

  • Walking
  • Dancing 
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi

These exercises, while not the only options, are easy ways to begin to improve your physical activity.

High-Intensity Exercises for Seniors

For people who prefer a faster or more challenging pace, there are many exercises that focus on building muscle, improving the strength of your heart, and strengthening your joints. If you live in an assisted or independent living community, it’s worth asking around and seeing if you have access to a fitness facility. Many communities offer all sorts of fitness programs with their services and amenities!

Some recommended exercises include:

  • Brisk walking 
  • Jogging
  • Light weight lifting
  • Hiking
  • Resistance training
  • Playing a sport

All of these help with building and retaining muscle, increasing heart rate, and strengthening joints.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Balance exercises should be done at least 3 times a week. These exercises focus on helping strengthen and maintain the muscles we use to stay balanced and upright, which can reduce the risk of tripping or falling as we get older.

These exercises include:

  • Heel-to-toe walking: Place your right foot in front of your left big toe and transfer your weight to that leg. Then repeat, bringing your left heel to your right toe. It helps to use a chair, a wall, or a cane to keep balanced.
  • One-leg standing: Using a chair or a wall for support, simply use one leg to hold your weight for 15-30 seconds (or whatever is comfortable!).
  • Body circles: Keep your upper body straight and bend at the waist, then lean forward, to the side, bend back, and to the other side, and continue in a circular motion. This strengthens the core and legs. 
  • Step-up exercises: Using a small stool, bench, or even a block of wood, step up to the next level with both legs, then back down, and repeat a few times slowly.

All of these exercises focus on helping train and maintain the muscles used for balance.

Good Fitness Routines for Seniors to Follow

The best way to determine a fitness routine that’s right for you or your loved one is to speak with your doctor or a fitness expert. If you live in an assisted living, independent living, or memory care community, speak with the team around you. If you have access to a fitness program or facility nearby, that can be a great asset.

For example, here at Minnehaha Senior Living, our residents have access to all sorts of programs and services, and our team on-site has a focus on making sure residents have what they need to be physically healthy and happy. Schedule a tour with us today to see for yourself what our care experts can do for you, and take the first steps towards improving your physical health! It’s never too late to start.

Written by Lifespark

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