Exercise: Exercises to Try

Frequently Asked Questions

2. How much physical activity do I need?

Physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. Every day is best, but doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. Try to do all four types of exercises -- endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Mixing it up will help you reap the benefits of each type of exercise, as well as reduce boredom and risk of injury.

Endurance Exercises -- How much, how often?

The goal is to achieve at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity on most or all days of the week. Examples of endurance exercises include

  • walking briskly on a level surface
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • gardening, mowing, raking
  • cycling on a stationary bicycle
  • bicycling
  • playing tennis.

Strength Exercises -- How much, how often?

Try to do strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week for 30-minute sessions each, but don't do strength exercises of the same muscle group 2 days in a row. When using weights, take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place, hold the position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to return to your starting position. Don't let the weight drop; returning it slowly is very important.

Muscle strength is progressive over time. Gradually increase the amount of weight you use to build strength. When you can do 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions easily, increase the amount of weight at your next session.

See these 10 strength exercises for older adults.

Flexibility Exercises – How much, how often?

Do each flexibility exercise 3 to 5 times at each session. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

Always warm up before stretching exercises. Stretch after endurance or strength exercises. If you are doing only stretching exercises, warm up with a few minutes of easy walking first. Stretching your muscles first may result in injury.

See these 12 flexibility exercises for older adults.

Balance Exercises -- How much, how often?

You can do the balance exercises seen here as often as you like. They overlap with the lower-body strength exercises, which also can improve your balance. In the beginning, using a chair or the wall for support will help you work on your balance safely.