Physical activity for older adults

Staying active is important when you’re getting older (including if you have health conditions). Regular physical activity can improve your health and wellbeing, and make it easier to perform daily tasks.

Man WalkingRemember even small increases in physical activity can produce measurable health benefits. It’s never too late to start.

It's important to speak to your doctor before starting or increasing physical activity. Remember to start off slowly and build up to the recommended daily physical activity levels.

The Ministry of Health recommendations for those aged over 65 years are:

  1. Spend more time being physically active and less time sitting down. Do lots of daily physical activities such as walking to the shops, vacuuming, gardening or washing the car.
  2. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity on 5 days each week. Aerobic activity makes your breathing and heart rate increase (e.g. brisk walking, ballroom dancing, cycling, kapa haka or kililiti, lane swimming, and playing with grandchildren).
  3. Aim for 2 sessions of resistance activities each week (in addition to the aerobic physical activity). Resistance activities are for muscle and bone strength (e.g. carrying shopping, and standing up and sitting down repeatedly)
  4. Aim for 3 sessions of flexibility and balance activities each week (in addition to the aerobic physical activity). Flexibility and balance activities are for easy movement and to prevent falls (e.g. modified tai chi, stretching, gardening, pilates or yoga, bowls, and standing on one leg).

Read the Physical Activity for Older People (aged 65 years and over) factsheet from the Ministry of Health [PDF].

Find out more about older person's health topics on HealthInfo.

The good news is you don’t have to do it all at once - when it comes to being active, every little bit counts. Research shows you can ‘snack’ on activity and still enjoy the benefits. Try 3 lots of 10 minutes if you can’t fit in a full half-hour at one time.

Getting some support can also really help. The Green Prescription team can provide personalised support to help you put together a realistic plan and achieve you activity goals.

Ideas for home-based activities

Sport Canterbury have a series of home-based activity sheets, including:

Other activity sheets are available from Sport Canterbury such as weights activities, mat exercises, and swiss ball and dynaband activities.

Download handy tips and ideas sheets on physical activity from the UK National Institute on Aging.

Reducing your risk of having a fall

Falls are a common cause of injury and hospital admission especially in older adults. Older people are much more likely to have a fall, and the consequences of a fall can be worse. Falls can cause permanent disability, loss of independence, and a loss of social contact.

Many falls can be prevented by increasing your balance and strength, and by making your home and environment safer.

Find out more about falls on HealthInfo, including some suggestions on how you can prevent falls, and the different services available.

Find out how strength and balance classes got an inspirational 86-year-old on her feet hours after an operation [PDF].

Find a local accredited group programme to help improve your strength and balance.

Check out the Live Stronger website for links and resources to live stronger for longer.

Join the Life Fit programme for older adults

The YMCA’s Life Fit programme in Christchurch offers classes tailored for mature participants or for those new or returning to exercise with qualified, REPs registered, caring and experienced instructors.

There are a wide variety of different classes available each week to suit everyone, including Sit and Be Fit for the less able, and classes or group exercise for those wanting more demanding challenges or to work at their own pace.

The Life Fit programme is designed to:

  • be fun;
  • keep you agile and active;
  • improve and maintain your fitness; and
  • give you the opportunity to meet new people.

Find out more about the Life fit programme for older adults in Christchurch.