Why Seniors Must Exercise And What They Risk Without It

It is no secret that there are multiple benefits of regular exercise, and yet, many seniors are either not getting enough or not getting any at all. There are a few reasons why this is the case. A lot of times seniors feel they just aren’t physically capable of exercise anymore due to sciatica or upper back pain to name just a few. Others just prefer more sedentary activities, and either are not aware of the benefits or aren’t particularly interested in them. In this article, you will find numerous bits of information that will motivate you to get up and start a new routine.

Why Do So Many Seniors Skip Exercising?

There are a few myths as well as barriers that keep seniors from getting regular exercise. Many feel that they are just too weak or incapable. Some seniors also believe that the body no longer needs the same type of physical activity once it has aged. A lot of elderly people are also afraid that if they attempt to exercise, they will get injured. Many also believe that only strenuous exercise is beneficial and neglect simple activities such as walking as a result.

Risk Factors of Inactivity

Neglecting physical activity as you age can put you in harms way more than you may realize. Those who do not get regular exercise can elevate their risk for cardiovascular disease. Lack of exercise can also be responsible for things such as weaker bones and joints, reduced muscle mass, less flexibility, elevated blood pressure and an increase in body fat levels.

According to the CDC , reduced physical activity is the main culprit behind the loss of strength and stamina that is related to aging. By the age of 75, approximately 33% of males and nearly 50% of females take part in no physical activity.

The Many Benefits of Exercise

Exercise can come in many forms. The misconception that exercise has to be utterly exhausting or strenuous to be effective is just that. The areas we can benefit from exercise are:

  • Muscles
  • Bones
  • Heart and lungs
  • Joints
  • Overall weight
  • Back pain

Our muscle mass decreases with age and inactivity. This phenomenon referred to as Sarcopenia causes physically inactive people to lose between 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. Remaining active can slow down the decline of our muscles significantly.

As we age, our bone density also decreases and our bones can begin to weaken and become brittle. Exercising keeps our bones healthy and strong and can help to prevent injury from falls or other accidents.

Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five killers in the nation and exercise can help the reduce the risk of both. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Any combination of the two is also beneficial. The AHA suggests 30 minutes per day, five days a week as a baseline goal to set.

According to the NIH , many studies have shown clear benefits of exercise for both heart and lung function.

To keep our joints healthy, they need regular use or movement. Extended periods of inactivity can cause them to stiffen and weaken. Those with arthritis can benefit from exercise and strengthening programs.

Being overweight and having too much body fat can lead to a host of problems. Excess weight can put extra pressure on our joints and can also put us at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise burns calories which can help us to lose weight. Not only can losing weight reduce the health risks mentioned above, but it can also make us feel good about our overall appearance.

Types of Exercises to Try

The NIH recommends focusing on four areas of activity that are all an important part of our everyday living. These are:

  • Endurance
  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

All of these aspects can intertwine and impact one another. Better endurance allows you to exercise longer and more vigorously which can lead to better strength. Better strength can give you better balance; balance can help to improve flexibility and vice versa. To improve your flexibility you can try Yoga or some gentle lower back stretches.

The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to different ways to get exercise. But as a guide, we will separate into two distinct groups. Indoor and outdoor exercises .

Indoor exercises can be performed at home or in a gym. You can do basic exercises with light weights or resistance bands at home. At the gym, you can use machines such as treadmills, bikes or ellipticals. You can join a pool aerobics class, learn martial arts or perhaps you enjoy games such as bowling.

Outdoor exercises can be as simple as walking, jogging or running. If you own a bicycle, you can go riding. If you enjoy skating, you can also do that. Be sure to equip yourself with the necessary protective gear if you decide to bike or skate. Another option is the low-impact activity Tai Chi.

Some activities around the house that we do not even consider exercise can provide the same types of benefits. Gardening, certain kinds of housework, yard work such as raking and shoveling are all activities that can give us a workout.

If you are physically capable and still have that competitive drive, you may elect to take part in sports such as tennis, golf or basketball. Even if you are not spry enough to move around that quickly on your feet, some sports cater to you such as seated volleyball or even wheelchair basketball.

No matter how old you are or what your physical condition is, many types of physical activity can fit your lifestyle. You can start slow by committing to walking for 15 minutes a day and gradually work up to half an hour or even more. The best course of action is to set goals and evaluate what you are capable of doing now and what you’d like to be doing at some point in the future.

If you have any uncertainty about what types of activities are safe or what your best course of action is, speak to your doctor, and they can help point you in the right direction. Exercise can be a fun and beneficial part of all our lives.

Photo of author

Stevie Compango, CNSC, CPT

Stevie is Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for the past 10 years. He specializes in mobility and chronic pain management. His methods have helped thousands of clients improve the quality of their life through movement.

Recommended Articles


  • Better Health. Physical activity for seniors. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-for-seniors
  • CDC. Older Adults. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/sgr/olderad.htm
  • WebMD.  Sarcopenia With Aging. https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/sarcopenia-with-aging
  • American Heart Association. American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults?utm_source=redirect_heartorg&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=301#.V7pEUZMrJQM
  • NIH. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability