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Physical activity

Staying active as you get older has many benefits. It can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of many health conditions. Research also shows that regular physical activity can improve mental and emotional health, social wellbeing and brain health.

Learn more about the benefits of exercise and different ways to stay active.

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Benefits of staying active

Regular exercise has many benefits. For example, it can help to:

  • reduce your risk of physical health conditions (e.g. heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers)
  • reduce your risk of falls
  • reduce your stress and anxiety
  • improve your sleep
  • improve your concentration
  • make you feel more energetic
  • build social connections.

Physical activity can help reduce pain

It can be hard to do regular physical activity if you have pain or chronic health conditions.

But research suggests exercise can help reduce chronic pain and improve quality of life in people with pain.

If you have a pain condition, it’s recommended you do small amounts of activity rather than one long session. It’s important to pay attention to your pain levels to make sure you don’t cause a pain flare-up.

If you have a chronic health condition, talk to your doctor or an accredited exercise physiologist about activities that are right for you.

Remember that any activity is better than none.

Different ways to stay active

It’s recommended that people aged 65 years and over do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week.

You can do a combination of activities, including:

  • fitness activities (e.g. brisk walking, swimming, cycling, gardening, mopping and vacuuming)
  • strength activities (e.g. weight or resistance training, lifting and carrying, climbing stairs, digging, body-weight exercises such as push-ups or squats)
  • flexibility activities (e.g. tai chi, stretching, yoga, dancing, bowls)
  • balancing activities (e.g. side leg raises, half squats and heel raises).

Visit the Healthy Bones Australia website to learn different exercises.

Keep moving

You don’t have to join a gym or fitness group to stay active. Any kind of movement is good for you.


One of the best activities you can do is walk. It’s free, you can do it by yourself or with friends, and you can tailor your walk to suit your fitness level.

Read about the humble act of walking.

Exercise safely at home

There are many ways you can stay active and exercise safely at home.

Try doing some exercises from the Safe Exercise at Home booklet, developed by physiotherapists from around Australia. This booklet has different exercises for various fitness levels, plus pictures, instructions and tips to keep you safe and motivated.

Tips to exercise safely

  • Wear supportive shoes.
  • Choose flat, even surfaces to walk on.
  • Start slowly and gradually increase the time you spend exercising.
  • Have some water handy.
  • Keep your phone in reach if you are exercising alone.

The National Ageing Research Institute has videos to show you how to exercise at home.

Chair exercises

Chair exercises can be helpful if you have limited ability to move. These exercises can help to improve your flexibility, balance and strength.

Choose a solid, stable chair without wheels or arms. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at right angles.

Visit the NHS UK website to learn how to do chair exercises.

You can also google ‘chair exercise videos’ for different ideas.

Low-cost group exercises

Exercising in a group is a good way to make friends and have fun. It may also help you to make exercise part of your daily routine. You can find affordable exercise classes in your local area through:

You can also find a local walking group at Heart Foundation Walking.

Use mobility aids if you need them

If limited mobility stops you from doing physical activity, a mobility aid such as a walking frame or stick might help. Talk to your doctor, an occupational therapist or My Aged Care about supports available.

Making exercise part of your routine

You’re more likely to make exercise part of your routine if you:

  • do activities you enjoy (e.g. walking, dancing, yoga)
  • do activities that suit your abilities
  • exercise in a group or with friends
  • have a weekly routine of activities and schedule them in your calendar.

Read tips on how to make physical activity a habit.

You can also download the Choose Health: Be Active guide for older Australians (produced by the Australian Government in association with Sports Medicine Australia). The booklet has an activity planner, tips about how to stay motivated and a variety of exercises you can try.

Get help from a professional

If you want to start doing regular exercise, you can ask your doctor for advice. You can also get help from an allied health professional to make sure you are doing exercises safely. For example:

  • a physiotherapist
  • an exercise physiologist
  • other health professionals.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

Langhammer B, Bergland A, Rydwik E. The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:7856823. Published 2018 Dec 5. doi:10.1155/2018/7856823
Geneen LJ, Moore RA, Clarke C, Martin D, Colvin LA, Smith BH. Physical activity and exercise for chronic pain in adults: an overview of Cochrane Reviews. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;4(4):CD011279. Published 2017 Apr 24. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011279.pub3
Last updated: 
12 March 2024
Last reviewed: 
02 February 2024

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