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  • Michelle Varela

Benefits of Physical Activity for Seniors

You’ve heard it time and again: physical activity and exercise are good for you, and you should aim to make them part of your routine. There are countless studies that prove the important health benefits associated with exercise, and it becomes more important as we age. Regular physical activity and exercise for seniors helps improve mental and physical health, both of which will help you maintain your independence as you age.

Those who practice good health habits when they are younger tend to remain healthier as they age, but it’s never too late to begin leading a healthier lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, less than 3% of Americans meet the basic qualifications for a “healthy lifestyle,” which includes eating a healthy diet, being active, maintaining a healthy body fat percentage, and being a nonsmoker. However, studies have shown those who begin practicing said qualifications for a healthier lifestyle enjoy a 40% reduction in the risk of death from any cause and a 35% lower chance of having a cardiovascular episode, like a heart attack or stroke.

Benefits of Physical Activity for Seniors

1. Prevent Disease

Studies have shown that maintaining regular physical activity can help prevent many common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Exercise improves overall immune function, which is important for seniors as their immune systems are often compromised. Even light exercise, such as walking, can be a powerful tool for preventable disease management.

2. Improved Mental Health

The mental health benefits of exercise are nearly endless. Exercise produces endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), which act as a stress reliever and leaves you feeling happy and satisfied. In addition, exercise has been linked to improving sleep, which is especially important for older adults who often suffer from insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns.

3. Decreased Risks of Falls

Older adults are at a higher risk of falls, which can prove to be potentially disastrous for maintaining independence. Exercise improves strength and flexibility, which also help improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls. Seniors take much longer to recover from falls, so anything that helps avoid them in the first place is critical.

4. Social Engagement

Whether you join a walking group, go to group fitness classes or visit a gardening club, exercise can be made into a fun social event. Maintaining strong social ties is important for aging adults to feel a sense of purpose and avoid feelings of loneliness or depression. Above all, the key is to find a form of exercise you love, and it will never feel like a chore again.

5. Improved Cognitive Function

Regular physical activity and fine-tuned motor skills benefit cognitive function. Countless studies suggest a lower risk of dementia for physically active individuals, regardless of when you begin a routine.

FREE Fitness Programs for Seniors


When searching for large national or regional health club chains that offer senior discounts, you'll notice that they're few and far between. That's partly because so many gyms that might have otherwise offered reduced rates to older Americans instead participate in the SilverSneakers program.

Available for free through many of the top Medicare Advantage plans, SilverSneakers allows eligible members to stay fit at more than 15,000 locations across the country. More than 70 classes are available, as are online workouts, personal training and healthy living discounts.

Anytime Fitness, Crunch Fitness, Life Time Fitness, Onelife Fitness, Planet Fitness, Workout Anytime, and YouFit all accept SilverSneakers, a free program you can enroll in with certain Medicare plans that gives you access to thousands of gyms.


All YMCA branches welcome seniors and most have senior-specific programs, classes and other offerings

Online Options

Checkout the following websites for FREE online workout programs.

Senior Fitness with Meredith

The Senior Fitness With Meredith free online hub offers an impressive library workouts for older adults. It has cardio routines, chair exercise videos, stretching and yoga sessions, as well as posture and balance routines.

You can search the workouts by skill level, length (10 to 50 minutes), equipment (resistance bands, weights, playground ball) and/or workout type.

Native Path

Personalized health and nutrition company NativePath features roughly 90 follow-along routines for older adults — for free.

Silver Sneakers- Online

You can't go wrong with a classic like SilverSneakers, ( program that keeps older adults front and center. There are hundreds of videos to pick from. You can try a new one each day.

They offer a wide variety of workouts that cover everything from strength to balance to agility. And they're taught by different instructors from varying age groups. Choose from on-demand videos or join a live class.

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