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CDC Exercise Guidelines for Older Adults

Elderly couple stretching

Written by:

Jeffrey Grossman


May 13, 2020

According to the CDC, physical activity can aid seniors in getting better sleep, lowering stress levels, and managing serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Unfortunately, an estimated 28% of seniors aren’t getting enough exercise right now. As a result, they may be losing the range of motion, balance, and flexibility that makes day-to-day activities easier and keeps them as healthy as possible.

As we age, we may find that we’re no longer able to engage in the same kinds of physical activities we once did, which can be discouraging. The trick is to look for activities for seniors that are catered to your specific physical abilities that are still highly beneficial. Age appropriate activities for elderly can offer fun and benefit one’s health.

Read on to learn more about the CDC exercise guidelines for seniors so that you can stay active as you age!

How Often Should Seniors Exercise?

We took a look at the CDC physical activity age chart to break down exactly how much people who are 65 years of age or older should exercise per week. These guidelines are exactly that–guidelines. Each individual senior should adjust this rate based on their physical ability.

Ideally, seniors should get 150 minutes, or two and a half hours, of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Two days of the week, seniors should practice muscle-strengthening activities that target different areas of the body. Throughout the week, perhaps once every other day, they should practice activities that utilize balance.

Why Is Physical Activity Important for Seniors?

As we mentioned earlier, the CDC notes a number of physical and mental benefits of a regular exercise regimen. Overall, staying physically active will increase your ability to maintain some level of independence as you age!

Of course, we can’t always prevent the loss of certain daily activities for seniors, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our current lifestyle. Whether you need help with housekeeping, running errands, or working in the kitchen, working with an at-home caregiver will prolong the amount of time you can spend living at home!

Moderate-Intensity Physical Activities for Seniors

When we refer to moderate-intensity physical activity, we mean exercises that get your heart pumping. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go for a run to accomplish this kind of physical activity!

A good example of moderate-intensity exercise is walking. When you walk for exercise, push yourself to walk a little faster than you would when walking around a store or to the mailbox. If you can, pump your arms with each step so that you get the blood flowing all over your body–this can also help you to keep up a steady pace and maintain your balance.

If you have trouble with aching joints, you may want to consider something like water aerobics. Moving through the water is great exercise and comes with all of the benefits of walking but without the added stress on your joints and bones.

Even pushing the lawnmower, dancing to some upbeat music, or performing a step class for seniors can help boost your heart rate. If you have limited mobility or health problems that make aerobic exercising difficult, consult your doctor to find out which kinds of moderate-intensity physical activities are right for you.

Muscle-Strengthening Activities for Older Adults

As we mentioned earlier, the CDC recommends that seniors incorporate low-impact strength training into their exercise regimen at least twice a week. Oftentimes, strength training doesn’t just increase our muscle mass–it comes with the added bonus of working on our range of motion. 

The trick is to avoid straining your muscles by moving incrementally to bigger weights or increased repetitions. If you stick with the same routine without moving up a notch here and there, that’s okay, too! Just keep up with your muscle-strengthening practice and you’ll reap the rewards.

While you can use small hand weights, you can also use your own bodyweight to build muscles. For example, if you are comfortable standing, try doing three sets of five to ten squats. Hold on to the back of a chair or put your arms out to your sides or front in order to increase your balance.

If it is better for you to exercise from a seated position, try some half-leg lifts. With your arms out to the side, place one heel on the ground with your toes facing up. Lift your heel three to six inches off the ground in three sets of five to ten–don’t forget to do both legs! 

Balance Training and Activities for Elderly Adults 

Balance is one of the most important things for a senior to work on regularly. Practicing balance will decrease the chances of having a fall-related accident or injury!

Once a day, practice your balance by standing on one leg or walking backward and then from side to side. If balance is something you know you struggle with, make sure that you only practice these activities in the presence of a caregiver or during an activity group for seniors. Many exercise classes are designed around age-appropriate activities for elderly clients!

Stay Consistent to Stay Healthy

If you want to follow the CDC guidelines for physical activities for seniors, remember that these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. The goal is to get as close to the CDC guidelines without over-taxing yourself or causing injuries. The most important thing is to stay consistent in your exercise routine so that you can stay healthy!

Are you aging at home and feel like you could use a little help? At Commonwise Home Care, we offer customizable services to suit each of our clients’ needs. Read more about our at home care services or call our Care Team today at 434.202.8565.

Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.