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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Does the recommendation for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day apply even to older adults?

A: Yes, in fact, if you’re an older adult, regular physical activity is among the most important things you can do for your health. Keeping active reduces risk of cancer and other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. What’s more, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) cites strong evidence that physical activity supports psychological well being and brain function, and may reduce risk of dementia. Regular physical activity helps maintain the ability to live independently, reducing risk of dangerous falls and keeping muscles strong enough to continue day-to-day activities.

If you're 65 years of age or older, are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions, you can follow the recommendations to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (30 minutes at least five days a week), or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. Getting an hour a day or more of moderate activity is even better. In addition to this aerobic activity that gets your heart rate up a little, the ACSM says there’s strong evidence that for middle age and older adults to maintain muscle, they need to do some sort of muscle-strengthening (resistance training) exercises two or more days a week. It’s important to work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Check the National Institute on Aging program called Go4Life® for more information about how older adults successfully work physical activity into their lives.

For people with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions who can also benefit from regular exercise talk with your doctor to make a plan for physical activity that is right for you. Physical activity helps people with high blood pressure and may help improve balance problems. If you’ve been sedentary, start with blocks of five or ten minutes of moderate activity and build up. Even 60 minutes a week is better than none. No matter your age, avoid physical inactivity.

Are you active enough? Take our quiz to gauge your activity level.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 06/15/2015

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