PAMF Health Blog

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Regular Exercise: A Senior Fountain of Youth

Posted on May 3, 2011 | 3 comments

As I tell my elderly patients each day, it is never too late to reap the benefits of regular exercise. The health benefits of exercise continue throughout life, and the golden years of retirement should not equate with a sedentary life. No matter how long it has been since you exercised, or how old you are, you can find an appropriate exercise to boost your fitness, energy and overall well-being.

It is a fact that muscle strength begins to decline after age 50, but regular exercise can make you stronger and improve your health. There are many benefits to seniors who exercise, beyond an overall improvement in fitness level. For example, regular exercise can lower the prevalence of risk factors linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Regular exercise can also lower your risk of depression and lessen the severity of depressive symptoms, including feelings of sadness, lack of enjoyment being with friends or doing things you typically like to do, sleeplessness, unexplained aches and pains, and feelings of hopelessness.

Once you have decided to launch a fitness program, where do you begin? Building physical fitness involves regularly working the heart, lungs and muscles. Ideally, seniors (like all adults) should get some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.

Talk with your doctor before starting your exercise program. Consider a low-impact exercise that is less likely to cause bone or joint injuries. Some examples include:

  • Water aerobics or swimming
  • Walking, hiking or jogging
  • Dancing
  • Light weights and calisthenics
  • Cycling
  • Bowling
  • Golfing
  • Yoga or Tai-chi

More than 30 percent of American seniors walk for exercise. As little as three hours of brisk walking per week may reduce heart attack risk by 64 percent.

It is never too late to get back into shape and drink from the fountain of youth that regular exercise provides. Before you have time to talk yourself out of it, just lace up those tennis shoes and start your exercise program today. I wish you a happy, healthy life.

Dr. Minerva Navarro is a family medicine physician in the Geriatrics Department at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View Center. Dr. Minerva Navarro

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  1. I just turned 65 and my biggest issue is knee pain and not being able to “walk briskly” as is always recommended. If I walk even 1/2 mile, gently, I can hardly walk the next day. Yes, I have had orthoscopic surgeries on both knees. I have no padding left in one knee and that is the problem. Yes, my PAMF surgeon has told me I am not the right age for knee replacement, so that is not an option. I can do very little exercise without my knee becoming very painful. Yes, I already do aqua aerobics (and push myself really hard), but that is not enough to help me lose weight and gain muscle. Unfortunately, I think most recommendations assume we “seniors” can still walk comfortably. 3-4 years ago, I could walk 4 miles and I enjoyed walking; I could still dance, which I LOVE. It is very sad that I can no longer do the types of exercise I truly enjoy. I hate biking. Please do not assume we can all walk comfortably. I wish that was the answer for everyone, but it is not.

  2. Here at the Sequoias retirement community in Portola Valley, our Sunday morning hiking group usually does about 4 miles in the hilly country that is our back yard. I try to get in another four miles on Wednesdays. I love to walk and the local birds, wildflowers and other critters make it very enjoyable. On my 80th birthday last month I walked to the top of Windy Hill.
    My upper body strength, however, is terrible!

    Cheers! earle

  3. I think the picture that goes with this article portrays a kind of silly image of retired Americans. As a 68 year, old I might prefer a more dignified image. My Opinion.

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