What Are the Best Exercise Routines for People Over Age 65?

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Contributor, Benzinga
March 28, 2023

For many of us who are age 65 or older, finding the best ways to exercise can be a real challenge. Only a few years ago, we could continue doing the same forms of exercise we always had. Suddenly, that becomes less possible or advisable. 

  • You used to run on the streets near where you live, but now that’s too hard on your knees.
  • You used to play tennis, but now that is also too hard on your knees.
  • You used to do martial arts, but now that is too hard on your entire body.
  • You used to do a lot of weight training, but now your back is too prone to injury.
  • So, what are you supposed to do to keep up an exercise routine? 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), senior citizens should do exercises that address these four areas: 

  • Balance 
  • Strength 
  • Flexibility 
  • Endurance

Plus, a growing body of research finds that moderate weight and resistance training can help people retain muscle mass as they age. 

What are you going to do now to keep your body moving?

Forms of Exercise to Continue or Add in Your Later Years


This is the most natural form of exercise to add or increase as you age past 65. Since you are probably already walking every day as you manage your daily routines, elevating walking to a fitness activity is straightforward. 

Equipment: Don’t overlook the need to buy supportive walking shoes that do not chafe or rub your feet. Also if walking is something you do several times a week or more, remember to replace your walking shoes about every three-six months. Even shoes that still look new can lose the ability to support, cushion and protect your feet.

Cycling on the Road or On Exercise Bikes

Cycling, a form of low-impact exercise that does not put strain on the knees or ankles,  is a great form of exercise for seniors. Because road cycling poses the danger of falls or traffic accidents, however, exercise caution or join a cycling group where you take rides in the company of other cyclists. Or opt for using exercise cycles in a gym or at home. 

Equipment: Good bicycles for the road, which cost $500-$3,000 or more, can be a good investment if you try riding and become serious about cycling as a form of exercise. If you decide to cycle indoors, you can limit your expenses by joining a gym. Another option is to rent or finance an exercise cycle for your home. 


Exercising in the water, like cycling, is another low-impact form of exercise that is widely favored by people who are entering their Medicare years. You can start slowly with short swims and comfortably increase the intensity and duration of your swims. Are there downsides or dangers to swimming? Very few. Some people report increased susceptibility to colds. A very small number of people report that exposure to chlorine can irritate their eyes or nasal passages. But those problems are very uncommon. That helps explain why so many elders feel that swimming is an ideal form of exercise for them. 

Equipment: There is very little to buy, beyond a quick-drying bathing suit. Some people do report that they enjoy swimming laps more if they wear a facemask and snorkel, which eliminate the need to twist the head and neck in order to breathe while swimming. Other serious swimmers like to wear flippers, which can increase the exertion and intensity of swimming laps. But that equipment, if you choose to use it, will cost only about $50-$60. The cost of joining a facility that has a lap pool is another consideration to keep in mind, but reasonably priced facilities probably can be found not far from where you live. 


There are many different styles of yoga. Some are very gentle, low-exertion forms. Others are more intense. But many seniors report that yoga, with its stretching and different levels of exertion, is an ideal form of exercise. If you already belong to a gym or an organization like a Y, chances are that introductory classes are offered there. You might also find that there are independent yoga organizations near where you live. There are very few dangers involved in starting to practice yoga, but it is a good idea to visit a class before you join.

Equipment: You can start classes at your local health club or Y without investing in fashionable yoga apparel – in most cases, you can simply wear sweats or workout clothes. If you become more serious about Yoga, you might move on to buy yoga exercise clothing, which is stretchy and designed to allow you freedom of movement. You might also consider buying a yoga exercise mat of your own, even though they may be available without charge at your Y or other facility. Many yoga enthusiasts feel that using their own mats helps protect them from germs that could be transmitted from mats that other students have used. 

Tai Chi

This gentle and slow traditional Chinese martial art has gained great favor among seniors, some of whom formerly practiced more strenuous martial arts. If you belong to a gym or Y, chances are that it offers Tai Chi classes you might want to try.

Equipment: There is really nothing to buy, because you can start and continue classes while wearing regular workout clothes. 

Working with a Personal Trainer

Chances are that your gym or exercise facility offers you the opportunity to work with a personal trainer who can help determine your level of fitness and recommend exercises and routines that will work best for you. You can either meet with a personal trainer for a few initial evaluation sessions or continue to train on an ongoing basis. Most seniors are looking for sympathetic trainers who are flexible and able to adjust routines to accommodate any physical limitations or concerns.

Equipment: There is nothing to buy beyond your regular workout clothes. 

Resistance Band Exercises

Resistance bands, which are like jumbo rubber bands, let you engage in a form of exercise that is like weight training. But using resistance bands is preferable in many ways. They are lightweight, can be stored in a dresser drawer, and do not require a weight room. You simply loop one end of a resistance band over a secure doorknob and perform arm curls, arm lifts and other simple exercises that you can learn about by searching online. Plus, many sets of resistance bands come with brochures that describe exercises. The only danger with using resistance bands is that you have to take special care to be sure you have attached them to solid and study doors. (A band that comes loose or pulls a doorknob out of a door can injure you.)

Equipment: Local big-box retailers have resistance bands in stock, or you can shop for them online. 


We had to include this among your options, right?

Pickleball, a game that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and paddleball, is taking America by storm. It is something of a craze among seniors because it offers fun and competitiveness or tennis with less strain or exertion. You will see people playing it in the park. Your town is probably setting up pickleball leagues. When you travel to resorts for vacation or take a cruise, you will have the opportunity to play. 

Is pickleball a good game for you as you enter your Medicare years? Probably. But do be aware that, like tennis, pickleball can place strain on your knees, ancles and muscles. So be sure to stretch your muscles before heading out onto the court

Equipment: A pickleball racket can be purchased for as little as $12. Or if you want, you can spend more for something a bit fancier. A pack of pickleball balls, which are kind of like skinless smaller rubber tennis balls, can be bought for $10. There is a lot to like about pickleball, as many people have discovered. If you try it, you might like it. It could be just the game for you!