Physical activity

Regular physical activity can provide you with many health and wellbeing benefits. Older people should do some form of physical activity, no matter what their age, weight, health problems or abilities, at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days.

It can help:

  • maintain or improve your physical abilities and independence;
  • improve your social interactions and quality of life;
  • build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints;
  • reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and some cancers.

The National Physical Activity Recommendations for Older Australians 2009 (developed by the National Ageing Research Institute for the Department of Health and Ageing) state:

Older people should be active every day in as many ways as possible, doing a range of physical activities that incorporate fitness, strength, balance and flexibility.

Older people who have stopped physical activity, or who are starting a new physical activity, should start at a level that is easily manageable and gradually build up the recommended amount, type and frequency of activity.

Older people who continue to enjoy a lifetime of vigorous physical activity should carry on doing so in a manner suited to their capability into later life, provided recommended safety procedures and guidelines are adhered to.

General advice when performing physical activities:

  • Consider physical activity as an opportunity for fun with a partner, friends or family members.
  • Drink water during and after physical activity to avoid dehydration.
  • Start with a short warm up and finish with a cool down and stretching to help you adjust to activities that place a physical demand on your body.
  • Include some outdoor activities, but try to avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Use appropriate safety and protection equipment to minimise risk of injury during physical activity, such as supportive footwear for walking and a helmet for cycling.

These recommendations apply to older people across all levels of health and ability, including those living in residential care facilities.