The Importance of Exercise Variety for Seniors 

Dr. Raymond Hobbs
Dr. Raymond Hobbs

| 3 min read

According to the CDC, 28% of American adults aged 50 and older are physically inactive, with the rate even higher for older adults with chronic diseases. The number of adults worldwide over the age of 65 has tripled and will represent an estimated 25% of the world population by the year 2050. 
Exercise is extremely important for building and maintaining a good level of personal fitness and physical health. Regular physical activity – including a mix of aerobic exercise, strength training and balance training – can help seniors live independently longer and with a better quality of life. It can also help in managing chronic diseases.
Physical activity is a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancers. It also contributes to improved mental health, prolonged independence and mobility and promotes an overall higher quality of life

What does it mean to have variety in exercise? 

The following four main types of exercise are important to include in any routine: endurance training, strength or resistance training, balance training and flexibility training.

Endurance Training

Endurance Training or aerobic exercise raises the heart rate and breathing rate. Endurance training is correlated with reduced risks of chronic diseases or conditions such as diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Examples of endurance training include: 
  • Brisk walking, jogging, and running 
  • Swimming 
  • Biking 
  • Tennis or pickleball 

Strength Training

Strength Training or resistance training is designed to keep overall strength and fitness levels high, working out the musculoskeletal system to maintain and build the strength seniors need to remain independent. Strength training is often completed using weights or elastic bands to provide resistance, but seniors can strength train without these tools by: 
  • Carrying groceries or soil and plants for yardwork 
  • Gripping a tennis ball or stress ball 
  • Push-ups or wall push-ups 
  • Pull-ups or modified pull-ups 

Balance Training

Balance Training is vital during aging to help keep core strength and balance intact, preventing or lowering the risk of falls. Three hours or more a week of balance exercises can help reduce the risk of falls by 20% or more. Examples of balance exercises include: 
  • Standing on one foot and alternating 
  • Standing up from being seated 
  • Tai Chi, Yoga, or other balance-based workouts 

Flexibility Training and Stretching

Maintaining flexibility and the ability to stretch is important to avoiding injuries, falls, and keeping independence. Make sure to stretch before and after exercises and all types of physical activity. If stretching hurts, stop that stretch or don’t stretch so far. 
It is important to note that the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity for adults is meant to be added on top of usual routines and physical activities
Dr. Raymond Hobbs, MD, is a senior Medical Director in Utilization Management at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health information and tips, visit
Image credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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