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Health Topics - Physical Activity and Exercise

In January 2013 the Ministry of Health released the Guidelines on Physical Activity for Older People. To view a copy of the Guidelines visit

Physical Activity for Older People (aged 65 years and over)
Physical activity has many health benefits. Regular physical activity:

  • increases muscle strength, flexibility, balance and coordination
  • helps to reduce the risk of premature death
  • helps to reduce the risk of falls
  • helps to prevent and manage health conditions like stroke, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, obesity and depression
  • enhances sleep, wellbeing and quality of life
  • increases social interaction.

Spend more time being physically active and less time sitting down
Daily activities such as housework and washing the car are great as they help get you up and moving, contribute to your overall physical activity and reduce the time you are sitting down. Even small amounts of physical activity can have positive benefits on your health.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity that makes your breathing and heart rate increase (aerobic activity), five days a week.

Moderate-intensity activities cause a slight but noticeable increase in breathing and heart rate. You can chat during moderate-intensity activity.

Vigorous-intensity activities significantly raise breathing and heart rate. You are not able to chat during vigorous-intensity activity.

Aerobic activities that benefit older people

Moderate-intensity aerobic activities
Cycling Golf
Brisk walking Housework
Kapa haka Kaumatua line dancing
Stair climbing Swimming
Walking Playing with grandchildren
Waka ama Water aerobics


Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities
Walking uphill Heavy digging
Fast lane swimming Cycling (more than 16 km/h)
Fast dancing  

Speak to your doctor before starting or increasing physical activity
To reduce the risk of injury, older adults who are physically inactive or sedentary or who have one or more health conditions should seek advice from an appropriate health practitioner before starting or increasing levels of activity.

Start off slowly and build up to the recommended daily physical activity levels

Aim to do three sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and two sessions of resistance activities per week.


Resistance activities
Carrying shopping Chair raises
Cycling Golf
Hill walking Knee lifts
Modified tai chi Stair climbing
Swimming Waka ama
Water aerobics Weight training


Flexibility activities
Ankle stretches Bowls
Gardening Golf
Housework Kilikiti
Modified tai chi Otago Exercise Programme
Petanque Pilates
Stretching Washing the car


Balance activities
Bowls Chair raises
Golf Cycling (less than 14 km/h)
Modified tai chi Otago Exercise Programme
Petanque (French bowls) Pilates
Poi toa Social dancing
Waka ama Standing on one leg


Recommendations for older people who are frail

  • Limit sedentary behaviour and be as physically active as possible.
  • Consult an appropriate health practitioner before starting or increasing physical activity.
  • Start off slowly and build up to recommended physical activity levels.
  • Consult an appropriate health practitioner before starting or increasing physical activity.
  • Aim for a mixture of low-impact aerobic, resistance, balance and flexibility activities.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether vitamin D tablets are beneficial

Be active safely

  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Wear hats and sunscreen outdoors in the summer.
  • Use safety equipment such as bike helmets.
  • Choose safe environments such as well-lit streets, open parks and indoor facilities.
  • Make sensible choices about when and where to be active and who to be active with.

For information on exercise groups in your area visit our Physical Activity and Exercise Community Notice Board Page.   Age Concern North Shore publishes a Calendar of Activities with groups and clubs in the North Shore area that hold regular exercise groups.

You could also visit Meetup is the world's largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organise a local group or find one already meeting up face-to-face.
Age Concern New Zealand has published an Information Sheet on Physical Activity in Later Life.  Click here to view.


Other Websites of Interest


Alcohol and Drugs


Bowel Cancer
Carers Page




Elder Abuse

Falls Prevention

General Medical
Grief and Loss


Home Support

Intimacy and Sexuality

Living with Disability


Memory Loss and Dementia

Men’s Health



Physical Activity and Exercise
Skin Cancer


Smoke Free

Sun Smart


Women’s Health