Tips on physical activity for active ageing

This fact sheet aims to provide guidance and tips for ageing healthily by keeping active. Guidelines and the infographic overleaf are from UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines (2019).

Physical activity

Physical activity is essential throughout life to support healthy ageing. For adults, physical activity can reduce the risks of many age-related conditions. It also slows age related deterioration which can reduce physical function, make older adults frail and increase the risk of falls. Everyone should aim to be physically active every day; while any activity is beneficial, doing more is better. There are two types of physical activity: cardiovascular exercise and strength/resistance exercise.

Did you know?

there is a decline in physical capacity of approximately 1-2% per year once age-related decline has started.

Strength exercises are particularly important for older adults to maintain muscle strength, balance, and flexibility; weight bearing activities help maintain bone health. Taking part in physical activity can also provide social and
mental health benefits.

The effects of ageing differ between individuals; most start to notice effects around the age of 50. The effects of ageing can be detected in all systems of the body (skeletal, cardiovascular, neuromuscular). Age related functional decline can lead to reduced mobility, flexibility, and stability; this can affect fitness potential and safety during exercise, makes activities harder to perform, and may contribute to reduction in activity levels in older adults.

Due to increased risk of exercise associated with ageing, adults over 50, with known health conditions, and all adults over 65, should seek advice from a GP before starting any programme of exercise. If possible, seek support from a qualified Personal Trainer who can help with an individualised activity programme to optimise health benefits. Over 50s should adhere to the following advice when exercising to reduce risk of injury/adverse effects:

  • Use more mobility exercises and build range of motion gradually.
  • Use slower, controlled and simpler movements; simplify exercises to avoid loss of coordination and balance.
  • Build cardiovascular intensity in exercises gradually and avoid very high intensity exercise or using too high a pace.
  • Choose low impact exercises (to protect joints).
  • With weight/strength exercises, avoid using high weights and have rest periods between sets of exercise (rest duration is dependent on weights used and reps performed i.e. will differ dependent on the programme being used).
  • Choose exercises that strengthen postural muscles, pelvic floor muscles and muscles around potential fracture sites e.g. wrists, hips, spine.
  • Take time to focus on posture and use correct techniques.
  • Have a long, gradual cool down after exercise.
  • Stretch well after exercise and use stable positions when stretching.
  • Avoid trying to use too wide a range of motion.
  • Perform more stretches for particular muscles depending on any conditions/area of concern or


  • Over 50? Medical condition? – consult a GP before starting an exercise programme.
  • Engage a personal trainer; optimise YOUR needs, and YOUR health.
  • Warm up before exercise and cool down after.
  • Do exercises correctly to reduce risk of injury.

Overall, functional status in older adults can be positively affected by exercise and diet indicating that exercise is increasingly important for people over the age of 50.