The Importance of Exercise while Aging

More frequently these days, especially in light of the opioid crisis currently plaguing our nation and a renewed focus on preventative health measures, doctors are prescribing exercise as a means of regaining health. We have all heard about the importance of exercise from friends, doctors, and numerous advertisements on the internet. Exercise is beneficial for everyone, but is especially important as we age.

Despite exercise being so important as we age, the older population gets the least amount of exercise on average. In a 2016 study sponsored by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that nearly 28% of adults over the age of 50 are physically inactive, with the percentage ballooning up to over 35% for those over the age of 75.01 This indicates that a quarter to over a third of the population who require regular physical exercise to remain healthy do not report getting the necessary physical activity. It is my opinion that these numbers are lower than the true figures, as the term "physical activity" is very vague, and being physically active does not necessarily indicate one is participating in regular physical exercise.

Physical Activity vs Exercise Not all physical activity can be considered exercise. Physical activity in a simple sense is just the movement of your body that requires your skeletal muscles to work. Exercise however is planned, structured, and purposeful, with the goal of improving physical fitness.02 Going to the grocery store, taking a leisurely walk through the park, and tending to the garden are certainly physical activity, but don’t necessary constitute as exercise. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, with a mix of cardiovascular (such as a brisk walk) and strengthening exercises.03 When exercising, a person should have a goal in mind and have targets to meet the moderate level of physical challenge.

What are the Benefits of Exercise for Older Adults? Everyone shares the same benefits from physical exercise, whether they are 18 or 80. There are a multitude of benefits for older adults who participate in regular physical exercise. Some benefits include:04

  • Improved muscular strength.
  • Improved cardiovascular function
  • Decreased joint pain
  • Improved balance
  • Prolonged independence with daily and leisure activities
  • Improved bone density

How Can Physical Therapy Help? Physical therapists are experts in functional movement, which includes selecting appropriate exercises to alleviate physical limitations. If you have been physically inactive or lacking in exercise, and have noticed a decline in physical capacity to perform daily functional tasks, increased joint pain, or a reduction in your balance, our therapists can help! Our therapists will perform a comprehensive evaluation considering your personal goals and medical history, and develop a treatment plan that is individualized to your needs. If you are generally healthy and just looking to improve your personal fitness, contacting your primary health provider to ensure no issues with beginning an exercise regimen and locating a reputative personal trainer or joining a group fitness class is likely enough to get started. However, if you are experiencing some of the functional limitations previously mentioned, please call our office to learn more about how our therapists can be of benefit to you!


  1. Watson KB, Carlson SA, Gunn JP, et al. Physical Inactivity Among Adults Aged 50 Years and Older - United States, 2014. MMWR Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 2016;65(36):954-958. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6536a3
  2. Exercise vs. Physical Activity. Updated April 24, 2020. Accessed March 29. 2022.
  3. Adults 50 and Older Need More Physical Activity. Updated March 16, 2022. Accessed March 29, 2022.
  4. Langhammer B, Bergland A, Rydwik E. The Importance of Physical Activity Exercise among Older People. BioMed Research International. December 2018:1-3. doi:10.1155/2018/7856823