For older Australians (65 years and over)
Staying active as you get older is important for good mental and physical health and wellbeing. It reduces the risk of many diseases, including some cancers, and helps maintain a healthy weight. Read about how much activity seniors should do, and how to build activity into your day.
Benefits of being active
As you get older, it’s important to do some form of physical activity every day.
What you do depends on your health and lifestyle. But there are easy ways to add activity to your day.
If you have health problems, it’s a matter of finding what works for you. Talk to your doctor about what activity suits you. For example, if you have:
- heart problems, diabetes or asthma – you can start moderate walking or swimming
- arthritis – you can try hydrotherapy or swimming in a warm pool
- osteoporosis – you can try weight bearing and strength activities.
Just a slight increase in activity each day can improve your health and wellbeing. It can help:
- reduce the risk of health issues, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, heart disease and some cancers
- maintain a healthy weight
- reduce the risk of falls and injury
- give you more energy
- improve your sleep
- reduce stress and anxiety
- improve concentration
- improve your mental health.
How much physical activity you should do
For people aged 65 years and over, we recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.
If you find 30 minutes difficult right now, start with just 10 minutes once or twice a day. After 2 weeks, increase to 15 minutes twice a day.
If you can do more than 30 minutes, you will get extra benefits.
Over the course of the week, try to incorporate different types of activities.
Try to reduce the time you spend sitting down – break that time up as often as you can.
Moderate fitness activities
Fitness activities are good for your heart, lungs and blood vessels, and can include:
- brisk walking
- golf with no cart
- aerobics or water aerobics
- yard and garden work
- mopping and vacuuming.
Strength exercises help maintain muscle and bone strength, and can include:
- weight, strength or resistance training
- lifting and carrying (for example, groceries or small children)
- climbing stairs
- moderate yard work (for example, digging and shifting soil)
- calisthenics (for example, push-ups and sit-ups).
Activities that focus on your flexibility help you move more easily, and can include:
- tai chi
- bowls (indoor and outdoor)
- mopping or vacuuming
- stretching exercises
Activities that help improve your balance can prevent falls and injuries, and can include:
- side leg raises
- half squats
- heel raises.
Building activity into your day
Building physical activity into your everyday life doesn’t have to be difficult. You can set aside a specific time each day, or fit some exercises in while waiting for the kettle to boil or watching TV.
There are lots of exercises you can incorporate into your day.
Stand up and sit down – for strength and balance
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and slightly apart.
- Try to keep your back and shoulders straight.
- Slowly stand up, trying not to use your hands (or as little as possible).
- Slowly sit back down and pause.
- Do this 8 to 15 times.
Shoulder roll – for flexibility
- Using a gentle circular motion, hunch your shoulders upwards, backwards, downwards and forwards.
- Do this slowly 5 times.
- Reverse the direction, and do the same 5 times.
Knee lifts – for strength
- Sit back in your chair with your back straight.
- Bend your knee and lift your left leg towards your chest.
- Hold for a few seconds then lower slowly.
- Do this 8 to 10 times with each leg.
Heels up toes up – for flexibility
- While seated, start with feet flat on the floor.
- Lift heels as high as you can, keeping the balls of your feet on the floor.
- Slowly lower heels until feet are flat, then lift toes until they point upwards.
- Repeat these up and down movements for 30 seconds.
Side leg raises – for strength and balance
- Stand sideways to a kitchen bench or table and hold on with your right hand to support yourself.
- Slowly take your left leg out to your left side.
- Keep your back and both legs straight.
- Hold the position for 1 second then slowly lower.
- Repeat 8 times at first, increasing to 15.
- Turn around and hold on with your left hand, and repeat with your right leg.
Half squats – for leg strength
- Stand facing a kitchen bench or table with your feet about shoulder width apart, feet facing forward and holding on with both hands.
- Leaning slightly forward, but keeping your back straight, slowly bend both legs, keeping your knees over your feet. Do not go down too far.
- As you return to the up position, squeeze your buttocks together.
- Repeat 8 times at first, increasing to 15.
Heel raises – for strength and balance
- Stand sideways to the bench, feet apart (shoulder width) holding on with your hand for support.
- Slowly rise up on to your toes, hold for a second and lower again.
- Do this 8 times to begin with, increasing to 15.
- Don’t rush your movements.
For more information about our activity recommendations for older Australians, see:
- Choose health, be active – a physical activity guide for older Australians
- Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines – tips and ideas for older Australians.