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Older Adults - Aerobic Activity

Aerobic Activity page 1
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Focus on Aerobic Activity

What is aerobic activity?

Aerobic activities are those that use large muscles (legs, hips, shoulders, arms) for an extended length of time, such as 10 minutes or more. They are also called cardiorespiratory (or cardio) activities because they work your heart and lungs. Examples of aerobic activities include:

  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Fitness classes
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Walking, hiking

Benefits of Aerobic Activity

  • Allows you to perform activities of daily living more easily.
  • Reduces your chances of falling or being hurt by a fall.
  • Prevents or helps you manage heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.
  • Improves your brain’s functioning, your memory and your mood.
  • Helps you enjoy more independence.

Activity Topics 

  • Every minute of aerobic activity counts! Start with five minutes and add time as your fitness improves.
  • Doing aerobic activity with others can be fun, motivating and increase safety.
  • Include everyday activities, such as gardening or climbing stairs, to increase aerobic fitness.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your ability to do aerobic activity.
  • Stay hydrated while moving your body! Fill a water bottle before exercise.
  • Warm up before activity. Walk or march in place for 5 to 10 minutes to gradually increase your heart rate.
  • Cool down after activity. Slow your movements to gradually reduce your heart rate and breathing.
  • If you are new to aerobic activity, start with what you can do comfortably and gradually increase your effort over time.
  • Enjoying a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is another way to keep your heart healthy.

Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale

Notice how hard you are exercising by using the Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale. Improve your aerobic fitness by exercising between levels 4 and 8.

  • Light Intensity (levels 1 to 3): Can sustain for a long time, can easily carry on a conversation or sing
  • Moderate Intensity (levels 4 to 6): Increased breathing, can hold a short conversation, can't sing
  • Vigorous Intensity (levels 7 to 8): Breathing is faster and deeper, challenging to talk
  • Max Effort (levels 9 to 10): Breathing at a rate you can maintain for only a short time, can't talk

Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults 65+

  • Sit less and move more!
  • At least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity.
  • At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Include activities that improve balance, such as standing on one foot.

Fueling your Fitness

Plan ahead to have simple and nutritious snacks handy if you need them between meals.  Combine two food groups to give you energy for exercise and help meet your daily protein needs. Examples of healthy snacks include:

  • Yogurt or cheese stick and banana (dairy + fruit)
  • Toast and egg or sliced turkey (grains + protein)
  • Celery and peanut butter or hummus (veggie + protein)
  • Find easy, tasty recipes at

Low-Impact Cardio Routine

Try these 6 exercises to build a cardio routine:person demonstrates 6 aerobic exercises

  • March with Knees High            
  • Forward Heel Taps
  • Backward Toe Taps
  • Leg Curls
  • March with Big Arm Circles
  • Step Jacks

Tips for creating a routine:

  • Have a chair nearby for balance or to rest between exercises if needed.
  • If standing is not possible or is uncomfortable, you can do the cardio exercises while seated in a chair.
  • Remember to warm up before and cool down after the routine.
  • Repeat each exercise for 1 minute before moving on to the next one.
  • To enjoy the benefits of aerobic fitness, start with one round of the cardio routine, then work your way up to 5 rounds for a total of 30 minutes.
  • Add arm movements, like arm curls or shoulder presses, for an extra challenge that will increase your heart rate and breathing.


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