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How to start exercising later in life

Start small, but start with something

It seems natural to slow down later in life. But as you grow older, staying active becomes more important than ever. Yet for many people, it's hard to find the time and the motivation. It may feel like you're too out of shape to join a gym, or even go for a walk. It can feel intimidating to get started and even harder to continue.

The good news is it’s never too late to start being active External Site — even if you’re someone who has never exercised before. You’re never “too old" or "too out of shape." With only a few exceptions, some physical activity is always better than none. In other words, whatever you can do to keep moving, do it, and do it some more.

This is true even for people with medical conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure. If you’re uncertain about your health status, have a chronic condition or health problem, or pain or discomfort that keeps you from being active, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Being physically active won’t solve all your health problems, but regular movement does reap big rewards for people of all ages. If you keep moving, you’ll feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.

What are the benefits of exercise?

Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health, providing immediate and long-term health benefits. It lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of disease External Site, eases stress, helps manage weight, improves brain health, strengthens bones and muscles, improves mobility and increases your ability to do everyday activities External Site.

In other words, exercise adds years to your life, and life to your years. The best part: It doesn’t have to be strenuous (or sweaty) to help you live longer. Adults who do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.

How much activity should I get?

The health benefits of exercise increase with the more physical activity you do. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans External Site, adults 65 and older should follow these guidelines:

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, five days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. If you prefer high-intensity aerobic activity, aim for 75 minutes a week (for example, 15 minutes a day, five days a week). This includes hiking, jogging, or running.
  • Add strength training exercises to your routine, like pushups, squats or weight lifting, at least two days a week.
  • As part of your weekly activity, work in exercises to improve balance into your routine. Also incorporate a simple stretching routine to improve flexibility and mobility.
Add movement to your life

If these recommendations feel overwhelming, remember that some physical activity is better than none at all. If your health condition affects your ability to meet these recommendations, be as physically active as your abilities allow. The trick is to start small, but start with something.

Five tips for success

Overall, the best path to fitness is the one you enjoy and make time for, so find a plan and stick with it. Get started with these tips:

  1. Decide what motivates you. For example, you may want to play with your grandchildren or live independently as long as possible. You may want to achieve a goal, like walking or running the Grand Blue Mile Opens in a new window. You may be working out to help manage a chronic disease such as diabetes. You may want to avoid weight gain, heart disease or another chronic condition. Whatever your reason, remember it if you find yourself skipping days.
  2. Take it slow and steady. If you're just beginning to exercise, start small and progress slowly. You may want to consult your doctor, professional health coach or a reputable trainer for help designing a program to improve your range of motion, balance, strength and endurance.
  3. Sneak more activity into your everyday life. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee, get together for a walk. Walk to the restaurant or grocery store instead of driving, or park far away if you have to drive. Stretch when you watch your favorite show. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Every bit of activity adds up.
  4. Listen to your body. To avoid setbacks, always pay attention to your body when you exercise. Stay alert to serious symptoms, and seek attention immediately if you experience chest pain or pressure, severe shortness of breath, or if you feel dizzy, faint or weak.
  5. Get creative. Ultimately, adding movement to your life should be fun. Find ideas to beat exercise boredom at Wellmark.com/Blue.

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