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Act Your Age — Exercise Guidelines for Life's Stages

By HERWriter
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Exercise Guidelines for Life's Stages — Act Your Age adrenalinapura/Fotolia

Do you walk every day after dinner? Or run every morning before work? I play tennis three to four days a week and take a few walks, and I feel pretty good about that. But according to the National Institute of Health, we all could do better.

The NIH recommends that we make sure our exercise practice span four areas: Aerobic, Balance, Muscle Building and Stretching.

Last spring the super-fit, underwear-model husband of my tennis partner, Gail, happened to watch us in a competitive match. He generously reported, “You both need to do some cardio so you can run faster for those balls.” Gee, thanks.

And as my tottering performance at a YMCA balance class among silver-haired ladies who were all as poised as oak trees proved, I’ve got some work to do.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidelines for the type and amount of exercise we should be completing each week. The recommendations differ for different ages.

Children and Adolescents, Ages 6 - 17

Children and teens should exercise 60 minutes or more per day. Those 60 minutes should include aerobic activity such as outdoor games and running, muscle strengthening such as sit-ups, and/or gymnastics and running.

Weight lifting puts too much strain on young joints and growth plates. For healthy growing bones, young children should engage in the age-appropriate old standards such climbing trees and crawling all over jungle gyms.

Adults, Ages 18 - 64

Aerobics: We should get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity (read brisk walking, bike riding on level ground, or doubles tennis) or one hour and 15 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity (running, swimming laps, basketball, rowing or singles tennis) per week.

Muscle Strengthening: In addition to our moderate or high intensity aerobics, we should be working every major muscle group at least two days a week. Beyond weight lifting, muscle strength can be built up with resistance bands, exercises that use body weight such as sit ups and push ups, heavy gardening and yoga.

Older Adults, Ages 65+

According to the CDC, the weakness and lack of stamina we tend to associate with aging is the direct result of reduced physical activity. As we enter our golden years, we require the same level of fitness as younger adults in order to maintain our balance, avoid degeneration, and increase longevity.

Older adults who have previously been sedentary should consult a doctor before beginning any new activity. Start slow, five to 10 minutes a day, building your strength slowly.

According to the CDC, exercise offers the following benefits to seniors:

- Helps maintain the ability to live independently, and reduces the risk of falls and fractured bones.

- Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, and of developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.

- Helps reduce blood pressure.

- Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions to improve their stamina and muscle strength.

- Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improves mood.

- Helps maintain bone, muscle and joint health.

- Helps control swelling and pain due to arthritis.

Get out there and move to stay balanced, strong and fast enough for tennis balls, at every stage of life.


Exercise and age. NIH.gov. Retrieved August 31, 2015.

How much physical activity do you need?. CDC.gov. Retrieved August 31, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines

Tween and teen health. mayo.org. Retrieved September 10, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/strength-training/art-20047758

Older Adults. CDC.gov. Retrieved September 10, 2015.

Reviewed September 11, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

What was left out of this article was to find a physical activity that you enjoy. If it is a forced endeavor, no matter how healthy, you will never sustain it for the long haul. Consistency is more important than occasional hard efforts. Consistency also minimizes the possibility of injuries (e.g. weekend warrior).

September 14, 2015 - 8:26am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

I couldn't agree more. It wasn't until I found tennis that I fell in love with exercise. 


Thanks for reading.

September 14, 2015 - 8:37am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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