Get Moving. Exercise Offers Many Benefits for Older Adults

Get Moving. Exercise Offers Many Benefits for Older Adults

- in Aging Answers, July 2015

If the older adult in your care has health problems, he or she may have a hard time starting or consistently doing exercises. Those health problems may reduce energy levels or make activities feel too difficult.

However, there are easy exercises for those who do not have much energy or do not feel well. Getting started is the hardest part. You can help your loved one start at a lower level that he or she can tolerate before building up to recommended levels of activity.

If you do the exercises together, not only will you gain the benefits of the exercise, you will be spending quality time with your loved one and may find that some of the stress associated with caregiving is reduced.


Older adults who regularly exercise or maintain high levels of physical activity have a better quality of life, as well as improved memory, mood and ability to do daily tasks. Physical activity is important, and possible, even for people who have physical health, memory or mental health problems. Although health problems can make it challenging to be physically active, exercise can still be beneficial.

Even older adults with severe memory problems experience benefits from regular exercise. Early findings from a study by the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging — the Reducing Disability in Alzheimer’s Disease study — show that exercising helped improve the ability for people with dementia to do daily activeties, such as dressing, bathing and walking. The exercises helped improve their mood, too.


The American Heart Association recommends that older adults spend two and half to five hours per week doing moderate-intensity exercise; or about 30-60 minutes a day, five times a week. This can be done all at once or in increments as little as 10 minutes at a time.

There are two types of recommended exercises. One type is aerobic exercise, which can help reduce the risk of premature death from cardiovascular causes, improves cognition and mood, and includes, for example, swimming, fast walking or bicycling. The other type is resistance exercise, which can help with strength, function, balance, bone density and reduced risk for falls.

Some examples of resistance exercise include lifting weights, some types of housework or yard work, and using resistance bands during movement. The best exercise program is one that includes both aerobic and resistance activities.


Help him or her consistently do exercises for the long-term. It usually takes around six weeks to notice the physical benefits, but the mood-enhancing benefits may show up right away.

Make sure he or she is doing the right exercises; doing the wrong exercises can be risky. Check with his or her physician or an exercise professional to get started.

Be free with words of encouragement.

Set a time or schedule for exercising each day, or every other day.

For more information on the benefits of exercise for older adults, visit NIH Senior Health from the National Institutes of Health at

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