Exercise and fitness

Aaron Hall, Junior Physiologist, AXA Health

Exercise for older adults

15 August 2023

Regular exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and wellbeing, regardless of age. For older adults, engaging in physical activity can be even more important as it helps enhance mobility, strengthen muscles, improve balance, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Older adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes exercise at moderate intensity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity if you are already active. If possible, aim to be physically active every day, even if it's just light activity1, and try and include two strength training sessions per week.

We explore exercises specifically designed for older people and provide some helpful tips to get started on a fitness journey tailored to their needs. 

Exercises to try


Walking is a low-impact exercise that offers numerous health benefits. It improves cardiovascular health, strengthens bones, and aids in maintaining a healthy weight2.

Start with shorter walks and gradually increase the duration and intensity. To make it more enjoyable, invite a friend or join a walking group in your community.

Read our article on the most frequently asked questions about walking

Strength training

Strength training is crucial for maintaining muscle mass and strength, which tend to decline with age3. It also helps improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls.

Begin with light weights or resistance bands and focus on major muscle groups, such as the legs, arms, back, and core. Seek guidance from a fitness professional to ensure proper form and prevent injury.

Water-based exercises

Water exercises, such as swimming or water aerobics, provide a gentle and joint-friendly workout. They offer resistance for muscle strengthening while reducing stress on the joints.

Many community centres and swimming pools offer specialised classes for older adults, making it a great opportunity to socialise while staying active.

>Read more on the health benefits of swimming

Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga and Tai Chi are excellent exercises for older adults as they improve flexibility, balance, and overall body awareness.

These practices also promote relaxation and stress reduction. Look for beginner-level classes or instructional videos tailored to seniors' needs.

Cycling or stationary biking

Cycling or using a stationary bike is a low-impact exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness, leg strength, and joint mobility.

Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase the duration as your fitness improves. Consider investing in a stationary bike for convenience and ease of use at home.

Tips to help get you started

1. Consult with your doctor: Before starting any exercise programme, it is essential to consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

2. Start slow and gradually increase intensity: Begin with shorter durations and lower intensities, gradually building up your stamina and strength over time. Listen to your body and progress at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

3. Warm up and cool down: Prior to exercise, warm up your muscles with gentle stretches or a few minutes of light walking. Afterwards, cool down by stretching to improve flexibility and prevent muscle soreness.

4. Stay hydrated: Remember to drink water before, during, and after your exercise session to stay properly hydrated.

5. Find an exercise buddy: Exercising with a friend or joining a group can provide motivation, support, and a social aspect to your fitness routine.

>Read more on the benefits of group exercise.

6. Modify exercises to suit your abilities: If you have limitations or physical challenges, don't be afraid to modify exercises to suit your needs. Work with a fitness professional to find suitable alternatives or adaptations.

Engaging in regular exercise is crucial for older adults to maintain physical health, mental wellbeing, and independence.

Whether it's walking, strength training, water-based exercises, or mind-body practices like yoga and Tai Chi, there are plenty of exercise options available for seniors.

By starting slowly, seeking professional guidance and staying consistent, older adults can reap the many benefits of an active lifestyle. Remember, it's never too late to start taking care of your body and enjoying the positive impact that exercise can have on your overall quality of life.


  1. Physical activity guidelines - NHS
  2. Walking for health – NHS
  3. Strength training for older adults - NIH

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