Why Walking Isn’t Enough Exercise to Stay Fit While Aging

A Healthier Michigan

| 3 min read

According to the CDC, routine, moderate exercise such as walking is not enough exercise for adults over the age of 65. Adults 65 and older need at least 150 minutes (about two and a half hours) of moderate exercise a week, which can include walking, but should also be paired with at least two sessions of strength training a week. Besides moderate exercise and strength training, balance training and exercises are also recommended for adults 65 and older.

Why Exercise is Important for Aging Adults

There are many elements that affect your health as your age. Choices such as what you eat and drink, what activities you partake in, smoking or dangerous behaviors, and more play a role in how you age, in addition to the types and amount of exercise you get, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Moderate to vigorous exercise is important to maintain a level of health and fitness. What exercises or workouts count as moderate vs vigorous exercise depends on your age, your body and level of activity. The CDC describes moderate cardio exercises as those that raise your heart rate and breathing slightly and keep those levels elevated throughout, while still allowing you to be able to speak while exercising. Vigorous exercise raises your heart rate and breathing more drastically to the point where you wouldn’t be able to talk without stopping for breaths.
Balance training is important to help prevent falls and lessen the dangers of fractures, breaks or joint injuries, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. A few simple balance exercises you can do on your own include standing on one leg, walking backwards, or using a balance tool like a “wobble” board or balance ball. The CDC provides balance exercise guidelines for older adults.

How Much Exercise Do Older Adults Need?

150 minutes of moderate cardio activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity is recommended for older adults, or adults over 65. This amount and level of exercise each week may look different for different aging adults. Briskly walking or jogging are popular moderate exercises for most, while running, swimming, or strength-training might be vigorous exercise for you.
Considering the CDC recommended activity levels for aging adults, a healthy weekly schedule or exercise plan for an older adult could include: 
  • five days of brisk walking for 30 minutes a day
  • two days with strength training with bands or weights
  • one short balance exercise each morning or evening
This example schedule or routine allows for a diverse, healthy level of exercise for an older adult with less than an hour or so spent each day. The moderate to vigorous cardio or aerobic exercise is good for heart health and general fitness, strength training can help with muscle mass and fitness as you age, and balance training is recommended to help decrease the chances of injuries from falls, fractures, sprains and strains.

Exercises for Older Adults

There are many ways for older adults to exercise at home that are free and available, including walking and simple balance or strength exercises. However, many older adults prefer to find community built around physical activity and exercise. Some popular examples from the National Institute on Aging that are great additions to your exercise routine include:
  • Lap swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Pickleball or tennis
  • Walking, running or biking clubs
  • Dance lessons
  • Hiking or backpacking
  • Yard work or gardening
  • Volunteering at a community garden or food pantry

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