How to Exercise Safely as a Senior

Exercise is an important part of getting and staying healthy at any age. As you get older, you should take extra precautions when beginning an exercise program to ensure your safety.

Preparing to Exercise

Before beginning any exercise program, always consult with your primary care physician to determine if you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program. Secondly, make sure you know your maximum heart rate in order to determine a safe intensity level for which to exercise. The standard equation is 220 minus your age. For example, a heart rate max for a 60 year old would be 220-60=160 beats per minute. You do not want to reach or exceed this number. A safe exercise range is 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

To exercise at 50% of this max: 160 x .5= 80 beats per minute

To exercise at 70% of this max: 160 x .7= 112 beats per minute

How Should Elderly Adults Exercise?

For important health benefits, adults need to get 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of aerobic activity every week and muscle strengthening activities on at least two days a week.

Aerobic activities can include gardening, water aerobics at your local fitness center, or brisk walking while maintaining a conversation pace (meaning you can carry on a conversation with a walking partner).

Strengthening exercises, on the other hand, are exercises that increase one’s power, strength, and muscle endurance. Strength exercises can also benefit you by increasing your muscle mass, which is very important to all adults. As we get older, this increase in muscle mass can help reduce the impact of weight loss and helps make the body more resilient. Strong muscles don’t strain as easily, which can help reduce the risk of injury. Exercises should include the major muscle groups (arms, shoulders, chest, back, hips, legs). Remember to start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity; you can still achieve health benefits from exercise intervals as short as 10 minutes.

It is important to be active as we age, as the health benefits from just 60 minutes a week of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt. If you’re looking for more information, consider consulting with a fitness expert to learn more about exercises that are safe and appropriate for your health and age. Fitness experts work in health and wellness centers and physical therapy offices. Your physician should also be able to recommend a certified fitness expert.


Marisa Gorbsky is a certified athletic trainer with a master’s degree in exercise science and has worked in sports medicine for more than 12 years. She has experience with college athletics, high school athletics, and senior rehabilitation in a clinical environment.