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Exercise Safety Tips for Seniors and Older Adults: Preventing Injury

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Mar 08, 2021

Exercise Safety Tips for Seniors and Older Adults: Preventing Injury

Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active are recommended for everyone, no matter the age group. However, not every exercise program is right for everyone. Normally, as we age, our bodies slow down and grow weaker. That is why certain exercises may become difficult over time. To maintain a healthy body, immunity, and mind, follow these exercise safety tips for seniors.

Should Seniors Exercise?

Firstly, it is a myth that people over a certain age should stop being active. In fact, the opposite is true. Regular physical activity is important for people of all ages, including the elderly. Exercise improves circulation, maintains muscle and bone integrity, and even benefits the mind. Oftentimes, people who exercise look and feel younger than their inactive counterparts.

Exercise recommendations for seniors

The CDC recommends people over 65 years of age to do both aerobic and strength-training exercises. Aerobic exercise intensity should be moderate-to-vigorous. Moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes a week (e.g. 30 minutes for 5 days), vigorous activity for 75 minutes every week, or a mixture of the two at least 2 days a week are ideal.

For strength training, dedicate at least 2 days a week to engage all major muscle groups. However, if exercising this much is difficult, doing some activity is better than none.

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Examples of exercises:

Light activity

  • Doing household chores
  • Gardening
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking or preparing coffee
  • Walking up the stairs
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga

Moderate-intensity aerobic exercises

  • Brisk walking
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Dancing (e.g. Zumba, ballroom dancing)
  • Doing outdoor chores (e.g. mowing the lawn, chopping wood)
  • Badminton or lawn tennis (doubles)

Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Hiking
  • CrossFit
  • Martial arts

Strength training exercises

Exercise Safety Tips for Seniors

Talk to a doctor

While most seniors can handle physical activity, there may be certain conditions that can limit the amount and types of exercise. For example, people with congestive heart failure or lung disease may have a harder time breathing. Exercise might worsen symptoms. Additionally, osteoporosis or previous bone fractures may increase the risk of injury.

As always, it is important to talk to a doctor before making major health and lifestyle changes. Having regular checkups is a norm for many senior citizens. Therefore, during your next visit, feel free to ask if exercise is right for you.

Follow an instructor

For veteran gym-goers and former athletes, exercising as a senior will be easier than a first-timer. However, there is nothing wrong with taking an interest in your health at any age. After getting approval from your doctor, you can start your exercise journey.

First, going to the gym or health club is one option. Many gyms offer personal training services as part of the membership. Personal trainers will help teach you how to do exercises properly and help motivate you.

Alternatively, if staying at home is more comfortable and accessible for you, there are plenty of options. If you are tech-savvy, you can easily download fitness apps and find a pre-made workout. Some of these apps also have virtual coaches that can help you. Refer to online videos of exercises to see the proper form.

Start low and slow

There is no need to rush into exercising. In fact, doing too much too quickly can do more harm than good. This is especially true for beginners or first-timers. Exercising may make you sweat or feel hot, but lightheadedness and coughing are signs to take a break. It is always better to start off using your body weight or light dumbbells before using heavier weights. Speed or the number of repetitions is less important than proper form and activating the right muscle groups.

Have a partner

Another one of the exercise safety tips for seniors is to exercise with another person. The first benefit is that you will have someone to watch your form and encourage you along the way. Secondly, having a watcher or buddy is helpful in case you fall or get injured. Unfortunately, injuries related to falls are some of the most common reasons for emergency room visits in elderly populations.

Wear proper attire

Wearing the right clothes is essential for staying cool and comfortable during exercise. Opt for breathable fabric made of cotton or synthetic fibers that wick away sweat. Stretchable fabric is ideal to maintain your range of motion.

In addition, the right footwear is important to consider. The type of exercise you do will influence what shoes to wear. In general, choose a rubber shoe that is made for cross-training. Ensure that the heel is sturdy and the sole supports your arches well. Pair your shoes with supportive socks and properly-fitted laces.

Don’t forget to stretch

Last but not least is stretching. Stretching and a light warm-up should be done before any exercise. After a workout, cool-down and stretch again. Stretching improves flexibility, recovery, and prevents injury before and after exercise. 

If you do activities such as yoga or tai chi, stretching is already integrated as part of the workout. Focus on lengthening your body and limbs while stretching and breathing deeply. Avoid bouncing or overstretching and aim to hold each pose for a total of 60 seconds for best results.

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Key Takeaways

In summary, your age shouldn’t limit your physical activity. Follow these exercise safety tips for seniors to improve your health and avoid injury. Finally, talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or exercise routine.

Learn more about Healthy Aging here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Mar 08, 2021

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