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From the National Council for Aging Care's comprehensive guide on Exercising for Seniors:  Click on the link below.


Carolina Gerard
Outreach Intern

National Council for Aging Care
1530 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209

Improve Your Balance

Each year, more than 2 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related injuries. Balance exercises can help prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling.

Be sure to try all four types of exercise — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

Endurance Exercises

To get all of the benefits of physical activity, try all four types of exercise -- endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. This page addresses endurance activities.

Increasing Your Breathing and Heart Rate

Endurance exercises are activities that increase your breathing and heart rate for an extended period of time. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, raking, sweeping, dancing, and playing tennis. Endurance exercises will make it easier for you to walk farther, faster, or uphill. They also should make everyday activities such as gardening, shopping, or playing a sport easier.

See more endurance exercises below, including ones you can do indoors, outdoors, and around the house, as well as different types of walking and sports activities.

How Much, How Often?

Refer to your starting goals, and build up your endurance gradually. If you haven’t been active for a long time, it’s especially important to work your way up over time. It may take a while to go from a longstanding inactive lifestyle to doing some of the activities listed below.

For example, start out with 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and then build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity. Doing less than 10 minutes at a time won’t give you the desired heart and lung benefits. Try to build up to at least 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of moderate endurance activity a week. Being active at least 3 days a week is best.

Going Further

When you're ready to do more, build up the amount of time you spend doing endurance activities first, then build up the difficulty of your activities. For example, gradually increase your time to 30 minutes over several days to weeks (or even months, depending on your condition) by walking longer distances. Then walk more briskly or up steeper hills.

Safety Tips

  • Do a little light activity, such as easy walking, before and after your endurance activities to warm up and cool down.
  • Drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat.
  • Dress appropriately for the heat and cold. Dress in layers if you're outdoors so you can add or remove clothes as needed.
  • Wear the proper shoes. (See "Shoes and Equipment" for more information.)
  • When you're out walking, watch out for low-hanging branches and uneven sidewalks.
  • Walk during the day or in well-lit areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • To prevent injuries, use safety equipment such as helmets for biking.
  • Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can't talk and should not cause dizziness, or chest pain or pressure, or a feeling like heartburn.

Indoor Endurance Activities

Don't let bad weather stop you from exercising. Here are some options for exercising indoors.

  • going to a gym or fitness center and using the treadmill, elliptical machine, stationary bike, or rowing machine
  • swimming laps
  • joining a water aerobics class
  • dancing
  • performing martial arts
  • bowling

For a fuller list of indoor activities, check out “Indoor Activities” from Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging.

Outdoor Endurance Activities

Use your exercise program as a chance to get outside and enjoy nature. Here are some ideas for being active outdoors.

  • biking, hand-crank bicycling, or tandem biking
  • horseback riding
  • sailing
  • jogging or running
  • skating
  • snorkeling

For more on outdoor activities, check out “Biking Safely” and "Have Fun! Be Active With Your Dog!" from Go4Life®.

Endurance Activities Around the House

You don't need to leave your house to be active. Check out these ways to exercise at home.

Learn how to make your home environment safe. Check out “Fall Proofing Your Home” from Go4Life®.

Walking or Rolling

Walking or wheelchair rolling are simple ways to be active. You can do it alone, with friends, even with your dog! Try one of these types of walking or rolling to get active today.

  • Nordic walking
  • hiking
  • walking the dog
  • mall walking
  • wheelchair rolling
  • race walking

For more on walking, check out “Walking for Your Health” and “Walking Safely in Rural Areas” from Go4Life®.


Sports are a great way to motivate yourself to be active. Competition and teamwork can inspire you to work harder and to keep up your commitment to exercise. Try one of these sports.

  • tennis
  • golf
  • pickleball
  • hockey
  • seated volleyball
  • wheelchair basketball

For more on sports activities, check out “Activities for All Seasons” and “Protect Your Eyes When You Exercise” from Go4Life®.

5 Steps for Endurance

Step 1

Go for a walk every day. Not only is walking considered an aerobic activity, but also it gives you a chance to get out in nature for some fresh air. Walk in the park, around the block a few times or at the gym, indoor track or mall if the weather is too hot or inclement.

Step 2

Go swimming or try a water aerobics class. Exercising in the water is extremely gentle on your joints, so it comes highly recommended for aging, sensitive joints. You'll get a full body, effective workout without stressing your body.

Step 3

Go dancing or join a dance class. Dust off your dancing shoes and get your heart pumping by dancing to your favorite music -- with or without a dancing partner. There are numerous styles of dance to choose; from slower waltz and ballroom dancing to fast Latin dancing classes. Pick a dance style that suits your level of fitness.

Step 4

Ride a bike. Many seniors ride a bicycle for transportation, leisure, exercise or a combination of all three. Cycling elevates your heart rate, and you can control the intensity by riding as fast or slowly as you want. If you don't want to ride a bike outside, consider using a stationery bicycle at home or your local gym.

Step 5

Walk up and down your steps at home. You don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to complete this exercise, just your own two feet. Walk up and down the steps for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, or break it up into smaller sessions. Walking up the steps also tones your leg and buttock muscles.

Questions or comments about this page,  contact Bob Klimek by using the Contact Us page at the top.

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