Seniors are staying active – and healthy – into their 80s and beyond

When you think retirement, do you think of a rocking chair? Probably not – and you’re not alone. Older adults are more active than ever.

Physical activity is great for people of all ages. And seniors don’t have to be marathon runners to reap the benefits. Even modest activity can improve frame of mind and overall health.

Exercise benefits

I’ve had more than one older patient refer to exercise as “the fountain of youth,” and it’s no surprise. Physical activity can help seniors:

  • Lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some kinds of cancer
  • Prevent injuries by improving strength and balance
  • Improve mood and self-esteem
  • Enhance the ability to think, learn, and make decisions

These sound like superpowers, but just two and a half hours of activity a week can make it happen.

How to get started

Before you begin any exercise program, visit with your doctor. She’ll work with you to develop a routine that fits your needs. And if you weren’t exercising at all, start slowly. This can help you build up to more activity and help prevent injury.

Much like a healthy diet, a sound activity program has variety. Aim to include three kinds of movement in your schedule:

Aerobic. This is any activity that gets your heart beating faster. It could be walking fast, dancing, or raking leaves. Ten minutes of aerobic activity is a good starting point. Slowly work your way up to 30-minute sessions.

Strength training. This is any activity that has you building and maintaining muscle. It could be doing push-ups or using cans of food as weights. Exercise bands are a great way to create resistance, too. Try to do strength training twice a week.

Balance activities. Practice standing on one foot, or stand up from a seated position without using your hands. Tai chi and yoga classes are great for balance, too. Try to do these activities three days a week.

How to up your game

If you’re ready for something that feels a little more athletic, there are lots of options. Here are some activities that are kind to the joints and big on fun:

  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Racquet sports like table tennis or badminton
  • Golf
  • Biking
  • Canoeing or kayaking

No matter what activities fit your interests and lifestyle, keep at it. Remember the adage, “Use it or lose it.” Use your muscles and keep your heart healthy so that they can serve you in the future. Staying active can help you stay healthy, independent, and feeling great.

Dr. Lynn McIntosh is a board-certified chiropractor. In addition to being licensed to provide general chiropractic care, she is also a certified chiropractic sports physician, working with athletes from multiple disciplines on specific sports-related problems. She’s also board-certified in acupuncture. Learn more at