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Staying Active While Aging

June 25, 2020

ost people know that regular physical activity is important. In fact, not getting enough has been linked to illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and lung disease. So the important question is not if you need to be doing some form of physical activity to protect against diseases like these, but how much is enough and what does that look like?

In 2008, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued recommendations for physical activity. To improve and maintain health, adults over 65 years need to complete aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance training.


To meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise you should try to be active daily, which includes performing your aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. Each week you should aim for:

150 minutes of moderate intensity activity


75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity.

The general rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity is equal to 2 minutes of moderate intensity activity, so a combination of moderate and vigorous activity can also be used to satisfy the recommended 150 minutes each week.

Some examples of moderate intensity aerobic activity would be:


Water aerobics

Riding a bike on a level surface

Doubles tennis

Vigorous intensity activities include:

Running or jogging

Riding a bike fast, or on hills

Singles tennis

Hiking uphill

Keep in mind that these are minimum guidelines. The more active you are, the greater the health benefit, especially if you have been more sedentary during the Covid-19 quarantine.


Muscle strength is important for all daily movement, and in older adults it can help to maintain strong bones, as well as reduce the risk of falling. The recommendation for strengthening is to work each major muscle group at least twice per week.

Examples of strengthening activities include:

Carrying heavy loads

Lifting weights

Exercises using your own body weight like push ups, sit ups, or squats

For each exercise you should try to perform:

At least one set 

8 to 12 repetitions in each set

Your resistance should be heavy enough that the last repetition is hard to complete.


While general exercise will help reduce your fall risk, it is still important for older adults to include balance training in their exercise routine, as poor balance is associated with an increased risk of falling. Patients over the age of 65 years who required care at an emergency room due to a fall were shown to have a functional decline in the subsequent 180 days. However, a meta-analysis in 2019 showed that older adults who participated in long-term aerobic, strength, and balance training were associated with fewer falls and fewer injuries from falls. Another study similarly showed that individuals 60-70 years old who exercised at least 30 minutes each day were at a lower risk of falling or having recurrent falls when over the age of 90. A little exercise each day goes a long way down the line.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Have you fallen in the past year?
  2. Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
  3. Do you worry about falling?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are at an increased risk of falling, but don’t worry! As movement specialists, physical therapists at WSPT are here to help and are trained to evaluate and customize balance exercise for your needs. Please schedule an appointment for a full assessment to get you on the path to increased strength and confidence with the physical demands of your day.

These guidelines are general recommendations and do not take into account previous injuries, medical conditions, or limitations that individuals may have. Your physical therapist is an expert in exercise and physical activity who can help design a program to maintain or improve your health while considering your past medical history, limitations, and goals. Your PT can teach you safe exercise technique, and help you safely progress your program as you get fitter to continue making improvements in your overall health.


Water & Sports Physical Therapy is the only practice in San Diego that has our patented, state of the art, 3D infrared analysis system, which allows our doctors to identify strengths and weaknesses, develop a comprehensive and unique rehab program for each patient, assist with injury prevention and help improve sports performance.

If you are interested in receiving a FREE infrared analysis with your one hour evaluation covered by your insurance, please call 858-488-3597 or email We have 8 convenient locations all over San Diego to assist with your healthcare!

Paganini-Hill A, Greenia DE, Perry S, Sajjadi SA, Kawas CH, Corrada MM. Lower likelihood of falling at age 90+ is associated with daily exercise a quarter of a century earlier: The 90+ Study. Age Ageing. 2017;46(6):951‐957. doi:10.1093/ageing/afx039

Miró Ò, Brizzi BN, Aguiló S, et al. 180-Day functional decline among older patients attending an emergency department after a fall. Maturitas. 2019;129:50‐56. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2019.08.008

de Souto Barreto P, Rolland Y, Vellas B, Maltais M. Association of Long-term Exercise Training With Risk of Falls, Fractures, Hospitalizations, and Mortality in Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(3):394‐405. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.540

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