The 3 best types of exercise for older adults

The 3 Best Types Of Exercise For Older Adults

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

George Bernard Shaw

A question we frequently get asked is: what are the best type of exercises for older adults?

As we age our muscles become weaker and contract more slowly, our bones become more brittle, our joints become less stable and our balance deteriorates. It sounds like a gloomy prospect but all is not lost, these processes can not only be stopped in their tracks, but even reversed with the right types of exercise. We work with lots of older people and the transformations in their abilities once they start to become more active and build exercise into their lifestyle is incredible!

“what you do now is going to set the tone for your retirement. That’s because maintaining a good level of general activity in your 60s probably helps to increase your overall longevity more than working out at any previous point in your life.” The Telegraph

As adults we have forgotten how to play and a lifetime of inactivity and sitting down for long periods of time makes matters worse, for more on this subject read our article Why Sitting Down Is Literally Killing You

1. Get moving

Rather than making a conscious effort to exercise, which may involve going to a gym or class and changing your clothes, the single best thing you can do is simply get moving. Make a conscious effort to move more frequently. Given that adult humans are approximately 60% water, our bodies are fluid systems, they are happier when we’re moving and, like water, when we are still we stagnate. Movement lubricates the joints (especially the spine), improves circulation, increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients around your body/brain and helps us eliminate toxins and waste products. Put simply, movement is life! So before you read any further, stand up, walk around and then come back to read on…

Get moving

2. Resistance exercise

Hopefully that got you moving? Now let’s talk about the single most effective type of exercise for reversing the decline in physical abilities as we age: resistance training. Now I’m not talking about weight-lifting as such, nor the requirement to break any records but only when you exercise against resistance are your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones stimulated to become stronger, faster and more dynamic. You actually have to overload your system slightly to stimulate change. With no overload, so see no change. Bodyweight training is good too but it’s often easier to overload your muscles by using hand weights, stretchy bands etc. This type of exercise, performed once or twice a week can be very effective.

Resistance exercise

3. Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) training

The recent trend towards high intensity interval training may not be as beneficial for older adults, and may in fact increase risk of injury when compared to Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardio training. LISS training involves exercising at approximately 60-80% of your maximum heart rate for 40-60mins. Any type of continuous exercise will do: walking, cycling, rowing, resistance training or a combination but it’s all about maintaining your heart rate within the target zone. You can calculate your ideal LISS heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Your ideal LISS heart rate will be 60-80% of this number. Use the table below to calculate your LISS training heart rate zone.

LISS Target Heart Rate Calculator

Age Target Heart Rate (HR)
60 96-128bpm
65 93 -124bpm
70 90 -120bpm
75 87 - 116bpm
80 84 - 112bpm
85 81 - 108bpm
90 78 - 104bpm

So to summarise, get moving! This is the single biggest change you can make. Walk more. If you’ve been sat down for more than an hour stand up, walk about, make a cup of tea. Next, try and build some resistance training into your daily routine. Finally some low intensity steady state cardio exercise will pay dividends to keeping you active and healthy long into old age.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) training

At CLASS we offer specific classes for over 60s. people who are new to exercise, or who have specific health considerations. These “Upper Class” include gentle yoga, bodyweight movement classes and Upper Class “Turn & Burn” which combines gentle resistance training and LISS cardio in the same 45-minute class. Exercise should not be intimidating, it should be fun, so if you haven’t already come and get moving with us. Join our culture of health & movement.**

Special offer: 1 month free unlimited classes for the over 60s.

Contact us at or call us on 01225302812 to register for your free trial.