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Staying in Shape as You Age

Rerun image Will you be active as you get older or need physical help? It can depend on how physically active you are.

Many older Americans do not get enough exercise. This can be a problem as aging slowly takes over. Every 10 years after age 50, we lose muscle strength and heart function. These losses are due to many things. Examples are poor nutrition and changes in hormones. Muscle and nerve cells also decline. However, lack of physical activity is the main problem.

The good news is, no matter what age you are, you can get in shape.

Physical Activity Has Many Benefits

Our bodies need regular physical activity to function well. It does not matter how old we are or our level of ability. A few benefits of exercise are:

Recommendations for Getting Fit

How much exercise do older adults need? General guidelines for healthy adults aged 65 and older are:

If you have health problems, talk to your doctor. Find out how you can safely do more physical activity.

Precautions Before You Begin

Physical activities put stress on your body and heart. Check with your doctor before starting a program.

Also take steps to help prevent injury. Here are some ways to stay safe:

Use safety measures. Choose physical activities that you like. You can get stronger and have more energy. Best of all, it will help you do the things you enjoy!


American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute

Public Health Agency of Canada


Chapter 5: active older adults. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at:https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf . Accessed June 16, 2021.

Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020 to 2025. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Available at: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf . Accessed June 16, 2021.

Physical activity for cardiovascular disease prevention. DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/physical-activity-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention. Accessed June 16, 2021.

Physical activity in older Americans. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics#.WgYTdltSzIU Accessed June 16, 2021.

Physical changes with aging. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/approach-to-the-geriatric-patient/physical-changes-with-aging. Accessed June 16, 2021.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 6/16/2021