10 Tips for Staying Active in Your 70’s and Beyond

The importance of staying active only increases as you get older. Both in your 70’s and beyond, you’ll need to have an active lifestyle if you want to maintain your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with loved ones. As you stay active, you’ll be able to continue to enjoy doing the things you love, spend time with the people you love, and avoid depression, loneliness, mental health problems, and possibly even cognitive decline and dementia. But staying active as a senior isn’t always an easy task. Keep reading to learn 10 tips for staying active in your 70’s and beyond.

#1: Do Regular Low-Impact Cardiovascular Exercise 

All right, it’s obvious for a reason. The best way to stay active is to, well…be active! You’ll need a regular fitness routine that includes low-impact cardio exercise. The American Heart Association suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. For most people, this equates to about 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise 5 times per week. 

The AHA describes “moderate intensity” exercise as activity that gets your heart rate up higher than normal, and your breathing harder than usual, but you can still talk through the activity. It’s a medium amount of effort. For most seniors, low-impact cardio exercise is a good choice. It puts less stress on your joints, and is less likely to cause falls or injuries. For a healthy 75-year-old person without any health conditions, a heart rate of 70-100 beats per minute is a good goal*.

Some good examples of low-impact moderate intensity exercise could include:

  • Brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour, or a 24 minute mile)
  • Water aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling 
  • Ballroom dance, social dance, or modern dance
  • Gardening
  • Training on an elliptical machine
  • Yoga 
  • Pilates
  • Rowing

Above all, choose cardiovascular exercise that you actually enjoy. Forcing yourself to do an activity that you hate is never going to be sustainable in the long run, especially for seniors. Also, switching it up can keep your exercise routine from getting boring–it doesn’t have to be the same thing every day or every week. 

*Suggested heart rate estimates do not take into account existing health conditions, current physical fitness, or other factors. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

#2: Include Regular Strength Training

Don’t underestimate the value of strength training if you plan on staying active in your 70’s and beyond. As you age, you naturally lose both muscle mass and bone density. This means that without strength training, you will become weaker over time, even if you maintain the same level of activity. Weakened muscles will also increase your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones. Including regular strength training in your exercise routine means you’ll feel better, maintain a healthy weight more easily, reduce your risk of osteoporosis, and be able to stay active throughout your life.

The American Heart Association recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. This can be part of your cardiovascular exercise, or in addition to it. Some examples of moderate- to high-intensity strength training include:

  • Resistance band exercises 
  • Weight lifting
  • Body weight exercises (like push-ups, squats, and lunges)
  • Kettlebell or dumbbell workouts
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a good way to combine strength training and cardio, for a shorter and more efficient workout.

Typically, one set of 8-12 repetitions, which works the muscles to the point of fatigue, is enough. Aim to train all of your major muscle groups every week, leaving 2 or more days of rest between strength training sessions to allow for recovery. The main muscle groups you want to exercise are:

  • Leg muscles (quads/quadriceps, calves, hamstrings)
  • Core muscles (abdominals, obliques, lower back)
  • Upper body muscles (chest/pectorals, latissimus dori or “lats”, trapezius or “traps”, shoulders/deltoids) 
  • Arms (biceps, triceps)
  • Glutes

With strength training, especially weight training, form is extremely important for safety, efficiency, and to avoid injury. Always consult a physical therapist or trainer before beginning a strength training program, or take classes with a qualified instructor. 

#3: Prioritize Mobility and Balance

Staying active in your 70’s and beyond requires good balance and mobility. Otherwise, you’ll be more prone to falls and therefore injuries, and stiffness of muscles and joints can cause pain that will prevent you from being able to both exercise and enjoy leisure activities.

Most good exercise programs of any type will include balance and mobility exercises. Pay attention to your exercise routine to make sure you’re practicing balance and improving your mobility each week. Yoga, dance, or pilates poses that include standing on one foot are a good test of your balance. Mobility exercises increase the range of motion of your joints and improve the elasticity of your muscles. Dynamic exercises that include twisting, hingeing, and rotational movements can all be good ways to improve mobility.

#4: Stay Flexible, and Include Regular Stretching

Keeping your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints flexible is likely to make all of your daily activities easier and less painful. Simple things like getting in and out of a car or bathtub, tying shoes, and getting dressed all require flexibility. Include stretching at the end of each exercise session. 3-5 minutes a day is enough to maintain normal flexibility. Try to vary the muscle groups and parts of the body that you are stretching. Never stretch to the point of pain, particularly sharp or acute pain. This could lead to serious injuries. Anything beyond slight discomfort is too far. Proceed slowly and gradually to stay safe, and consult a physical therapist or trainer about the best stretches for your body.

#5: Don’t Do It Alone

For many people, it’s hard to stay active all by yourself. You may find your motivation to exercise quickly diminishing. Joining an exercise class or group can help! You could also find a friend or “exercise buddy” to help hold you accountable. The social interaction will help prevent depression and loneliness, as well as just making exercise way more fun. It’s easier to show up when you know others will notice if you’re not there. 

Some good social exercise options include fitness classes at a local gym, a neighborhood walking group or mall walking group, water aerobics classes, or taking classes in your senior living community. 

#6: Include Everyday Movement 

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean only structured exercise classes or routines. Everyday movement is a great way to stay active in your 70’s and beyond. Take up active hobbies like gardening, nature walks and hikes, biking, golf, or bird watching. Don’t underestimate simply living an active lifestyle. If health allows, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park a little further away from the store, and walk or bike instead of drive. 

#7: Try Technology

Wearable fitness devices and apps can provide valuable motivation and information. They can help you set goals and track your fitness progress. At the very least, a heart rate monitor is a good choice for any active senior. This can allow you to be sure you’re pushing yourself when you are exercising, without exceeding the level of exertion that is safest and best for you.

Modern smart watches, like the Apple Watch, include many fitness features like heart rate monitoring, step and distance tracking, and even calculations of daily active calories burned. There are also devices specific to fitness goals, like the FitBit or the Oura ring. Try these tech devices to see if they could help you stay active more easily.

#8: Mental Health is Also Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health–if not even more so. Staying active plays a vital role in a healthy, happy brain. Likewise, good mental health will make it much easier to stay physically active. Research has established many links between physical and mental health. For example, clinical depression raises your risk for diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Similarly, many chronic health conditions increase your risk of depression and anxiety. 

Prioritize your mental health in whatever way is best for you. For many people, mental health counseling is extremely helpful. It’s never too late to learn more about yourself. If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, make sure you regularly see your doctor about your condition. Medication is often necessary, and it’s important to take your medication in the correct dosage and frequency. If you struggle with mental health, regular exercise is even more important for you. Physical activity is often as helpful as medication in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety (source).

#9 Set Realistic Goals and Celebrate Yourself

As a senior, your fitness goals are likely to be different than a person in their early 20’s–as they should be. You don’t need to run any marathons to be physically fit and healthy, and you don’t need to compete for health with anyone else. Health also looks drastically different from person to person. Weight and body shape are not accurate indicators of health. Each of our bodies are unique, with unique limitations and abilities. Make sure the goals you set are the ones that work best for your body, mind, current health, and lifestyle. 

As you obtain your goals, celebrate your victories! Tell loved ones about your consistency with your cardio exercise. Brag about being able to lift heavier weights this month than you did last month. Write your successes down in a journal. Set realistic goals, and then celebrate them to help you maintain the motivation to stay active as a senior citizen.

#10: Talk to Your Doctor and Medical Team

Talking to an expert is easily the best way to stay active throughout your life. Consult with your doctor and other members of your medical team to come up with an exercise or activity plan that is personalized just for you. A physical therapist is a great resource for treating any pain or discomfort, and developing ways to treat and prevent health conditions. 

Always talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise plan. People with heart conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, or other chronic health conditions may need to exercise with lower frequency and intensity than others. It can be harmful to your health to exceed your physical limits, so please include your treatment team in all of your plans to stay active.

With these 10 tips on staying active in your 70’s and beyond, getting older doesn’t have to mean getting weaker. Stellar Living hopes these tips help you. Need more help and motivation? Senior living communities include outdoor walking paths, gyms, and fitness classes to make staying active even easier than ever. Tour a community near you today and see how senior living can help you stay active.