Physical activity guidelines for older adults

Physical activity guidelines for older adults

For the first time the physical activity guidelines, published in July 2011, include recommendations for the amount of physical activity older adults should be doing. This population covers a wide range of ages and physical function from the athletic to the frail and immobile. This set of guidelines applies to adults aged 65 years and over.


Physical activity guidelines for older adults


  • Older adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits, including maintenance of good physical and cognitive function. Some physical activity is better than none, and more physical activity provides greater health benefits.
  • Older adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.
  • For those who are already regularly active at moderate intensity, comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
  • Older adults should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week.
  • Older adults at risk of falls should incorporate physical activity to improve balance and co-ordination on at least two days a week.
  • All older adults should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

These guidelines are designed to help professionals and practitioners understand the type and amount of physical activity older adults should do to benefit their health. 


Support and dissemination


We have produced a series of three booklets designed to assist those who work with older people to interpret the UK physical activity guidelines into appropriate messages. There are three booklets designed to reflect the differences among the older population.

Active older adults those who are already active either through daily walking, an active job and/or who are engaging in regular recreational or sporting activity

Older adults in transition older people whose function is declining due to low levels of activity and too much sedentary time, who may have lost muscle strength and/or are overweight but otherwise remain reasonably healthy

Frailer, older adults those who are identified as being frail or have very low physical or cognitive function, perhaps as a result of chronic disease such as arthritis, dementia or advanced old age itself.


Our evidence briefing focuses on physical activity and adults aged 65 and over. This document is designed for professionals who require a review of the available evidence. It includes information on health outcomes of physical activity, current levels and implications of practice.

Download: Older adults evidence briefing


We have also produced a practice briefing to provide evidence-based practical strategies to effectively promote physical activity with older adults. It particularly focuses on people aged 65 and over who are already active or in transition towards becoming frailer and centres on enabling them to continue living independently.

Download: Older adults - Practical strategies to promote physical activity


Public Health England

An infographic has been developed to help healthcare professionals initiate conversations with patients about the importance of physical activity for health. It targets doctors, nurses, GP surgeries, charities and allied health professionals to help them advise patients to be physically active.

Download: Physical activity benefits for adults and older adults

Department of Health

To support these guidelines the Department of Health has produced factsheets summarising the guidelines for older adults.

Download Factsheet 5: Older adults (65+ years)



NHS Choices

NHS Choices is the country's biggest health website and provides information to allow people to make choices about their health. For NHS Choices' information about physical activity for older adults visit