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The Importance of Exercise in Older People

By Apricus Health

15th February 2023

We know that exercise is extremely beneficial for both physical and mental health – it’s been drilled into us since school and in general social circumstances since we were young.

The benefits of stress relief, improvising cardiovascular health, and generally living a healthy, balanced life as a direct result of exercise cannot be understated. However, not many people realise just how important exercise is for older people.. 

Older people  can become increasingly vulnerable with age and exercise is one of the essential  components of staying strong, healthy and to maintain functional independence (which is vital to stay living at home for as long as possible).  So, without further ado, let’s look at the importance of exercise in older people, and the inadmissible benefits of exercise for people over the age of 65.  

What are the benefits of exercise for older people?

There are countless benefits of physical activity – Here are the main ones that are directly related to maintaining health, wellbeing, quality of life, independence and safety in older people: 

Physical benefits  

1. Maintains cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular conditions become more common as we age.  Age is a direct risk factor for poor heart health. Strengthening the heart lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. As exercise is important  for cardiovascular health, it is essential that older people continue to be physically active for as long as possible. Get that heart pumping a little faster than usual a few times a week!

2. Keep muscle mass, strength, and balance

As we get older, the body’s muscle mass, balance, and overall strength slowly diminishes – it’s just a fact. Regular exercise can go a long way in maintaining muscle mass, balance, and strength, ensuring the continuation of day to day physical tasks.  Increasing muscle mass can assist with strengthening your back, legs and shoulders which can help to decrease any pain that you may be experiencing. 

3. Reduced risk of falls 

The risk of falling is increased as we get older..  This is due to our reflexes being slower, our vision diminishing and our strength decreasing. Improving balance and coordination can help to reduce the risk of falls and  strengthening joint-supporting muscles is vital  to stay active and independent. 

4. Increased bone density 

Older people have lower bone density that makes bones weaker, leading to increased risk of fractures. Regular exercise can help to increase and maintain bone density .  Weight bearing exercises are excellent and these include: 

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Stair climbing
  • Gardening .

5. Maintain a healthy weight

Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight which is vital for quality of life and general wellbeing.  Diet can play a significant part in maintaining health for the over 65’s and can help to protect against a variety of chronic health conditions.  

Cognitive benefits

The importance of exercise for older people  does not stop at physical health – equally as important (if not more), are the cognitive and mental health benefits that come with exercising as we get older. By releasing important ‘feel good’ hormones, exercise can help us to feel better, increase our energy levels, sleep better and generally improve our mood.

1. Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease & dementia

The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can increase as we age. Multiple studies show that regular exercise and continuing to exercise as we get older reduces the risk of developing theseconditions.

2. Improved memory

Exercise is very beneficial for cognitive capacity. Therefore, exercise not only helps to reduce the risk of dementia, but also improves our ability to concentrate, memorise, pay attention, and execute functions related to memory.

3. Enhanced mood

We know that the endorphins released after exercise are what make us feel good after physical activity – this doesn’t go away as we get older! Regular exercises as we age is important for improving mental health, reducing stress and anxiety, and enhancing overall mood and outlook.

4. Better quality sleep

There are thousands of studies that clearly display that good sleeping patterns are directly related to exercise and physical activity – this is especially true for older people and the elderly.

Activities to promote elderly exercising

When we talk about exercising as we get older, we’re not necessarily talking about hitting the treadmill or joining the local gym. As we get older, exercise can become less impact-focused, and more gentle. Older people  will also need to consider their limitations and personal preferences – exercise should be fun, not a daunting task! 

Activities ideal for older people include: 

  • Aerobics
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Resistance Training
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Strength and balance exercises

Some Examples

  • Park your car a little further away from the shops and walk with a quicker pace
  • March on the spot when you are brushing your teeth
  • Grab something heavy from the pantry (bag of sugar or flour, tin of tomatoes) and do some bicep curls.
  • Sit to stand from a kitchen chair 10-15 times
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Water aerobics
  • Taking the dog for a walk
  • Walk around the block a few times a week


The importance of exercise in older people  cannot be underestimated . As you can see, there are so many physical and cognitive benefits to continuing to stay active, especially if you are keen to stay in your own home for as long as possible. If you’d like to learn more about how older  people can maintain fitness, independence, and general health for as long as possible, Apricus Health are here to help. North Queensland’s leading providers of allied health services, our occupational therapists can put together a personalised program with easy to manage exercises that you can do at home. . 

For more information on our holistic aged support services in Townsville, get in touch with Apricus Health today.