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Are You Too Old to Start Exercising?

Kimberly Fowler
By Kimberly FowlerJanuary 2, 2017

The New Year is upon us, and for many of us, that means setting personal goals. What’s the most popular New Year’s resolution? Fitness, according to Neilson.

However, many seniors do not focus on fitness or set personal exercise goals, especially if they’ve never exercised before. In fact, “just one out of four people between the ages of 65-74 exercises regularly,” Web MD’s R. Morgan Griffin reports. Why? “Many people assume that they’re too out-of-shape, or sick, or tired, or just plain old to exercise,” Griffin says.

You’re Never Too Old to Start Exercising

The fact is you’re never too old to start exercising.

“Exercise is almost always good for people of any age,”  Dr. Chhanda Dutta, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging told Griffin.

“Exercise can help make you stronger, prevent bone loss, improve balance and coordination, lift your mood, boost your memory, and ease the symptoms of many chronic conditions.” If you regularly exercised in the past — as a young adult, for example, then you may find it easier to get fit again.

“Studies show if one has done any exercise — even in the dim and distant past — your body ‘remembers’ what it did to some extent,” the Daily Mail reports.”‘Muscle memory’ is the term that sports scientists and fitness trainers use to explain the fact that those who have exercised regularly earlier in life find it easier to get into shape after a long break than those who are exercising for the first time.”

But what if you’ve never been active before? Is it possible to change your approach to your body and health at age 70, 80 or 90? Absolutely.

“Even if you have had an inactive lifestyle, research suggests that you are never too old to benefit from exercise,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report showed that “even moderate physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail, or who have diseases that accompany age.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “a substantial number of research studies confirm the many benefits of regular physical activity for older adults.” These studies prove that more active people have “lower rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, breast cancer, and depression. The guidelines add that ‘regular physical activity is essential for healthy aging.'”

Getting Started Is the Hardest Part

Just like with any change in habit, getting started is the hardest part. For seniors with no background in exercise, it’s hard to know where to begin.

  1. The first thing to do is to make a commitment to yourself that this is something you are going to do (and can do).
  2. Then, talk with your family doctor about how to start a healthy and safe exercise regime if you have a health condition or chronic illness. However, “people don’t need to check with a doctor before they exercise just because they’re older,” Dr. Chhanda Dutta says. “Just go slowly and don’t overdo it.”

If you don’t know where to start, consider talking to a fitness professional who is experienced in working with older adults. There are also a number of online resources for older adults, including:

  • The NCHPAD’s exercise programs
  • Websites like EASY, which are dedicated to helping older adults find the right exercise programs for their individual needs and health conditions.

It’s most important to have fun and start slowly. You’re more likely to stay active if you enjoy the activity you’re doing, and don’t forget to reward yourself along the way! It’s important to recognize the work you’re putting into getting fit and healthy.

Examples of Exercise Programs for Seniors

There are many examples of amazing seniors who have taken their fitness goals to the next level.

Willie Murphy, for instance, is a 77-year-old power lifter who started lifting weights when she was 73. She got stronger “little by little” and now lifts weights competitively.


Murphy is an amazing role model, but don’t feel that you have to become a competitive athlete in order to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Weight lifting is just one recommended activity for seniors who want to get (or stay) fit and healthy.

Depending on your physical health and ability, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends:

  • Balance exercises to build strength, posture and help avoid falls
  • Endurance exercises to improve the heart and lungs
  • Strength exercises to build muscle and increase metabolism
  • Stretching exercises to keep joints and muscles limber, which can increase mobility and movement

For seniors who are starting to exercise for the first time, the following activities are good starting points because they are gentle on the body while also offering important benefits:

  1. Aerobics
  2. Pilates
  3. Simple movements like raising your arms, chair and toe stands or leg raises
  4. Swimming
  5. Tai Chi
  6. Walking
  7. Water aerobics
  8. Yoga

Make a commitment to yourself and use your caregivers, family and friends for support to start exercising. With determination, seniors of any age can make 2017 a year of health and fitness.

Have you made a New Year’s Resolution to start exercising this year? Share your resolutions and stories with us in the comments below.

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Kimberly Fowler
Kimberly Fowler
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