Physical activity for health and vitality
The physical activity recommendation for over 65-year-olds introduces the amount of physical activity beneficial for the health and vitality of older adults. It also describes the versatile nature of the required physical exercise and gives advice on how to increase physical activity in daily life.
The 65+ recommendation particularly highlights the effects of muscle strength and balance on functional mobility, fall prevention and ability to overcome daily challenges. Versatility of physical activity is also emphasized.
Picture 1. Weekly physical activity recommendation for over 65-year-olds.
Diverse physical activity for health and functional ability — even short bouts are beneficial
The core of the 65+ recommendation consists of the following points:
- Muscle strenghtening, balance and flexibility activities should be practised at least twice a week.
- Moderate physical activities that increase your heart rate should be performed for at least 2 hours 30 minutes per week. The same health benefits can be achieved by increasing the intensity of the physical activity from moderate to vigorous, in which case the required minimum duration is 1 hour 15 minutes per week.
- Light physical activity should be practised as often as possible.
- Different combinations of the above-mentioned categories of physical activity are the best way to advance health and functional ability.
A few minutes of physical activity at a time counts, too. Recent studies suggest that even light physical activity has positive health impacts particularly for those who are physically inactive. Light physical activity can lower blood sugar and lipid levels, improve blood circulation and increase joint and muscular flexibility.
Picture 2. The upper part of the weekly physical activity recommendation for over 65 year-olds.
Muscle strengthening, balance and flexibility activities
at least twice a week
- Train your large muscle groups and challenge your balance. Combine exercise with stretching.
- Choose your own way, e.g. gym training, home workout, yoga or dance.
Moderate physical activity
at least 2 hours 30 minutes per week
- Any activity that increases your heart rate is beneficial.
- Choose e.g. dance or nordic walking.
Physical activity is moderate if shortness of breath doesn’t stop your speech.
Vigorous physical activity
at least 1 hour 15 minutes per week
- You can achieve the health benefits of moderate physical activity faster by increasing the intensity of your activity.
- Choose your own way, e.g. cycling, water sports or stair climbing.
Physical activity is vigorous if talking is difficult due to shortness of breath
Light physical activity
as often as possible
- Every step counts: household chores, outdoor activities, grocery shopping and other daily activities.
- Choose e.g. going for walks, walking the dog or yard work.
Balancing rest and exercise
One should take breaks from sedentary behaviour as often as possible.
The updated recommendation pays close attention to overall wellbeing. The role of sleep in one’s vitality is notable. Sufficient sleep combined with physical activity have significant health benefits.
Picture 3. The lower part of the weekly physical activity recommendation for over 65 year-olds.
Breaks to sedentary behaviour
- Movement activates your muscles, reduces the strain on your body and advances the wellbeing of your musculoskeletal system.
- Choose e.g. taking breaks from sitting, working in a standing position or engaging in break exercise.
- Adequate sleep is important. During sleep your brain works to structure and store information and your body recovers.
- When you wake up refreshed, you know you have slept enough.
Move your way – Every day
- Physical activity refreshes your mind.
- You meet friends.
- Your memory works.
- You sleep better.
Physical activity maintains your ability to move and fuction
- helps in daily activities
- prevents falls and fall-related injuries
- prevents, treats and rehabilitates several illnesses
Underlying research data
2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018.
Last updated: 10.5.2021