Physical Activity for Older Adults (65+)

Why is physical activity important for older adults?

Being physically active has countless benefits to both your body and your mind. Some of the benefits of physical for older adults include:

  • improved sleep
  • helps maintain healthy weight
  • helps manage stress levels
  • improves quality of life and independence
  • reduced risk of falls
  • decreased age related cognitive decline
  • decreased chance of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers

Physical activity guidelines for older adults:

At least 150 mins of moderate intensity OR 75 mins of vigorous intensity activity across the week, alongside strength, balance and flexibility activity on at least 2 days of the week.

What counts as light activity?

Light activity is moving rather than sitting or lying down.

Examples of light activity include:

  • getting up to make a cup of tea
  • moving around your home
  • walking at a slow pace
  • cleaning and dusting
  • vacuuming
  • making the bed
  • standing up

What counts as moderate intensity activity?

Moderate intensity activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer. One way to tell if you're working at a moderate intensity level is if you can still talk, but not sing.

Examples of moderate intensity activities include:

  • walking for health
  • water aerobics
  • riding a bike
  • dance for fitness
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking

What counts as vigorous intensity activity?

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast. If you're working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

In general, 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity can give similar health benefits to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity. Most moderate intensity activities can become vigorous if you increase your effort.

Examples of vigorous activities include:

  • running for beginners
  • aerobics
  • swimming for fitness
  • riding a bike fast or on hills
  • singles tennis
  • football
  • hiking uphill
  • dance for fitness
  • martial arts

What activities strengthen muscles?

To get health benefits from strength exercises, you should do them to the point where you need a short rest before repeating the activity. You can do strength and resistance exercises whether you're at home, outside in a park or open space, or in a gym.

Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include:

  • carrying heavy shopping bags
  • yoga
  • pilates
  • tai chi
  • lifting weights
  • working with resistance bands
  • doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups
  • heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling

Read more about strength and resistance activity specifically here.


  • aim to be physically active every day, even if it's just light activity
  • do activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity if you are already active, or a combination of both
  • reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity
  • if you've fallen or are worried about falling, doing exercises to improve your strength, balance and flexibility will help make you stronger and feel more confident on your feet
  • muscle-strengthening exercises are not always an aerobic activity, so you'll need to do them in addition to your 150 minutes of aerobic activity

Explore these practical tips to support older adults to move more: