As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent many of the health problems that seem to come with age. It also helps your muscles to grow stronger so that you can keep doing your day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others.
Keep in mind that some amount of physical activity is better than none at all. The health benefits will also increase with the more physical activity that you do.
Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether, and how, their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely. When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week because of any health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and needs allow.
Physical activity has many benefits for older people. It not only helps you to feel better physically, socially and emotionally, it also:
- helps to control weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and bone and joint problems, such as arthritis
- reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers
- helps to manage pain
- helps maintain and increase joint movement
- helps to reduce the risk of injury from falls, a significant concern with ageing.
How much physical activity do you need?
Adults aged 65 or older who are generally fit, and have no health conditions limiting their mobility, should try to be active daily (this is on a case-by-case basis).
It’s recommended that adults aged 65 or older do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days. (1)
Some activity, however light, is better for your health than none at all — you should aim to do something, no matter what your age, weight, health problems or abilities.
Examples of activities that require moderate effort for most people include:
- Fast walking
- Water aerobics
- Ballroom and line dancing
- Riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills
- Playing doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawnmower
Five Easy Home Exercises for Older People
Keeping fit and healthy is an essential part of ageing well, but it’s even more important now as Australia is battling the impact of Coronavirus. (2)
Supported calf raise
This exercise is excellent to build strength in your lower legs, specifically your calf muscles, which helps reduce shuffling when walking.
- Start off standing with both legs straight and at hip-width apart.
- Hold on to a wall or supportive object, like a chair, for balance.
- Rise up onto your toes, keeping your legs straight, and control the movement back down to the start position.
- Repeat 10 times.
Supported marching on the spot
This exercise encourages hip flexion and builds the strength in your knee and hip muscles to lift your legs when walking to clear the ground. Building strength in these muscles will make walking a lot easier and effortless.
- Stand straight, holding onto a chair or table for support.
- Bend one leg, bringing your knee up in front of you towards your chest.
- Control the movement as you lower back down.
- Repeat the movement on the other leg and continue to alternate legs.
- Ensure you do not lean your body or hitch your pelvis up as you lift your leg.
- Perform this 10 times.
Standing hip abductions
This exercise builds strength in your hips and stabilizing muscles, also known as your glutes. These muscles are essential for stabilizing our body during everyday tasks, such as walking.
- Stand straight, holding a chair or table for balance.
- Whilst standing on one leg, hover your other leg off the ground and slowly move it out to the side.
- Control the leg as you bring it back into the starting position, and then repeat the movement.
- Make sure you do not lean your body or hitch your hip up as you move your leg.
- Complete this exercise 10 times on one leg and repeat on the other leg.
Sit to stand
This exercise is excellent to perform daily to build and maintain strength in your legs. It will also assist you by transferring from a chair to standing that much easier.
- Start in a seated position.
- Bring your bottom to the edge of the chair with your feet back underneath you.
- Try to do this exercise without using your hands.
- Stand up until you are entirely upright, and then gradually sit back down.
- Control this movement and then repeat.
- If you do need to use your hands, try to limit their use as much as you comfortably can.
- Complete this exercise 10 times.
Tandem stance balance activity
This exercise, if performed daily, can vastly improve your static and dynamic balance. This means you will feel more steady on your feet when standing and reaching and while walking.
- Place two chairs on either side of you and stand in the middle.
- Holding on to the chairs, place your right foot directly in front of your left foot in a tandem stance and maintain that posture.
- Try and balance without holding on.
- Switch feet, so the opposite foot is now in front, and repeat.
- A kitchen bench or a corridor is an excellent place to do this, using the walls or the bench top for support – if needed.
- To challenge your balance, add in alternating head movements by looking side to side and up and down.
- Perform for 20 seconds on each leg and repeat three times.