4 key workouts for staying active as you age

by Kaiser Permanente |
Adult swimming in pool with a kickboard

As people age, they have less energy and more aches and pains. Maybe it’s sciatica or lower back pain. Or an old knee injury that twinges from time to time. No matter the reason, more than a quarter of people 50 and older are inactive.1 But regular exercise is just as important when you’re older — if not more so. 

The benefits of exercise

No matter your age, being active isn’t just good for your body — it’s good for your mind, too. Over time, exercise can reduce the risk of anxiety, depression, and dementia.2 And while moving your body is often used to get stronger and control weight, it offers plenty of other health benefits:3

  • Improves bone strength, which can lead to fewer fractures and better balance 
  • Lessens pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis by strengthening the surrounding muscles
  • Helps prevent and reduce the symptoms of chronic diseases, like heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension

Best exercises for older adults

To get the most from your workout routine, try a variety of exercises each week. And remember that any activity is better than nothing. If you get moving a little every day, it’ll all add up.


Cardio exercise is any activity that gets your heart pumping and makes you out of breath. It can be something as simple as a brisk walk, gardening, or social dancing. Or you can kick up the intensity with hiking, running, or swimming laps. Each week, try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio. Or you can do 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio.4


Strength exercises not only make your muscles stronger. They also build bone density and help protect your joints.5 Add strength to your workout routine by lifting weights or using resistance bands. You can even use your body’s weight as resistance with exercises like push-ups, crunches, or squats. Make sure you work every major muscle group, including upper body, lower body, and core. Work up to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per exercise twice a week.6 


Increasing your flexibility and range of motion can help protect your muscles and joints from injury. Just add a few different stretches to your routine 2 days a week. Include some passive stretching, where you gently move into each stretch until you feel some tightness, then hold for 30 seconds. Then add some dynamic warm-ups, like shoulder circles or simple yoga poses.7


More than 1 in 4 people 65 and over fall each year. And as you age, broken bones can lead to more serious health concerns or even long-term disability.8 Working on your balance a few minutes every day can help lower your risk of falling and improve your coordination. Try walking heel-to-toe or standing on one leg. You can use a chair or wall for support if you feel unsteady. Tai chi and yoga can also help your coordination. 

Take small steps if you have health problems

If you have a chronic health or joint problem, you can still exercise safely. Talk with your doctor before you start, and ask what physical activities may be best for you. Depending on your health, you may be able to do low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming. Or find a way to add more activity to your day without changing your routine. 

It’s never too late to start

If you don’t know where to begin, try different activities to find ones you enjoy. Then start slowly, with 5 to 10 minutes a day. Increase the duration a little bit at a time as you get used to the activity. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be hard. Don’t overdo it, and stop if you feel any pain. Your goal is to focus on the things you can do and try to move your body every day. To find more ideas, see our other fitness and exercise articles.

1Report: Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 16, 2022.

2Physical Activity Benefits for Adults 65 or Older,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 1, 2023. 

3The Life-Changing Benefits of Exercise After 60,” National Council on Aging, August 30, 2021.

4Physical Activity for Adults: An Overview,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 13, 2023.

5See note 3.

6See note 4.

7Being Active as We Get Older,” Exercise is Medicine, American College of Sports Medicine, 2019.

8Falls and Fractures in Older Adults: Causes and Prevention,” National Institute on Aging, accessed May 16, 2024.