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Exercise - Ages 65+
Exercise - Ages 65+ in United States
United States

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Exercise - Ages 65+ by State

Percentage of adults ages 65 and older who met the federal physical activity guidelines (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and two days of muscle strengthening per week) in the past 30 days

Exercise - Ages 65+ Trends

Percentage of adults ages 65 and older who met the federal physical activity guidelines (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and two days of muscle strengthening per week) in the past 30 days

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Exercise - Ages 65+

About Exercise - Ages 65+

US Value: 23.1%

Top State(s): Wisconsin: 30.3%

Bottom State(s): Kentucky: 10.5%

Definition: Percentage of adults ages 65 and older who met the federal physical activity guidelines (150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and two days of muscle strengthening per week) in the past 30 days

Data Source and Years: CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2019

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

Regular exercise is an important aspect of healthy living. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults ages 65 and older who are generally fit and have no limiting health conditions get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity every week. Adults with limiting health conditions are advised to engage in as much physical activity as their abilities permit and avoid inactivity. 

Routine exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of premature death and many chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and behavioral health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

The prevalence of exercise is higher among:

  • Older men compared with older women.
  • Multiracial older adults and older adults who identify as other race compared with Hispanic older adults.
  • College graduates, who have a prevalence more than twice that of adults with less than a high school education. The prevalence of exercise increases with each increase in education level. 
  • Older adults with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, who have a prevalence almost twice that of adults with an annual household income less than $25,000. The prevalence of exercise increases with each increase in income level. 

Even moderate increases in physical activity can reduce the risk of mortality in older adults and prevent or delay the onset of many chronic diseases. Effective interventions among older adults include:

  • The EnhanceFitness program. This is a low-cost program in the United States that aims to improve the fitness levels of older adults. Participants of EnhanceFitness experienced improvements in their physical functioning and mental health. The program has also driven down health costs and reduced unplanned hospitalizations.
  • The SilverSneakers program. Offered by select Medicare plans at no additional cost, this program provides access to multiple fitness facilities nationwide. Older adults who participate more frequently in this program report better physical and mental health outcomes and have lower health care costs compared with those who participate minimally. 
  • Increasing neighborhood walkability. A growing body of evidence illustrates the importance of the built environment and community design in promoting physical activity, as older adults who live in more walkable neighborhoods engage in more physical activity. 

Muscle strength training combined with protein nutritional supplements has also been shown to be easy to implement and effective at reducing frailty in the elderly. Incorporating both muscle strengthening and aerobic physical activities has been shown to reduce death rates among older adults. 

The CDC offers strategies and tools that public health professionals can use to encourage community-based physical activities for older adults, as well as information on how older Americans can add physical activity to their lives.

Healthy People 2030 has several objectives to improve physical activity, including increasing the proportion of older adults with reduced physical or cognitive function who engage in leisure-time physical activities.

Arija, Victoria, Felipe Villalobos, Roser Pedret, Angels Vinuesa, Mercé Timón, Teresa Basora, Dolors Aguas, and Josep Basora. 2017. “Effectiveness of a Physical Activity Program on Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Adult Primary Health-Care Users: The ‘Pas-a-Pas’ Community Intervention Trial.” BMC Public Health 17 (June): 576.

Aylett, Elizabeth, Nicola Small, and Peter Bower. 2018. “Exercise in the Treatment of Clinical Anxiety in General Practice – a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” BMC Health Services Research 18 (July): 559.

Barnett, David W., Anthony Barnett, Andrea Nathan, Jelle Van Cauwenberg, and Ester Cerin. 2017. “Built Environmental Correlates of Older Adults’ Total Physical Activity and Walking: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14 (1): 103.

Belza, Basia. 2007. “Moving Ahead: Strategies and Tools to Plan, Conduct, and Maintain Effective Community-Based Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults.” Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chase, Jo-Ana D. 2013. “Physical Activity Interventions among Older Adults: A Literature Review.” Research and Theory for Nursing Practice 27 (1): 53–80.

Chekroud, Sammi R., Ralitza Gueorguieva, Amanda B. Zheutlin, Martin Paulus, Harlan M. Krumholz, John H. Krystal, and Adam M. Chekroud. 2018. “Association between Physical Exercise and Mental Health in 1·2 Million Individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: A Cross-Sectional Study.” The Lancet Psychiatry 5 (9): 739–46.

Hamasaki, Hidetaka. 2016. “Daily Physical Activity and Type 2 Diabetes: A Review.” World Journal of Diabetes 7 (12): 243–51.

Hupin, David, Frédéric Roche, Vincent Gremeaux, Jean-Claude Chatard, Mathieu Oriol, Jean-Michel Gaspoz, Jean-Claude Barthélémy, and Pascal Edouard. 2015. “Even a Low-Dose of Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity Reduces Mortality by 22% in Adults Aged ≥60 Years: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 49 (19): 1262–67.

Kell, Kenneth P., and Elizabeth Y. Rula. 2019. “Increasing Exercise Frequency Is Associated with Health and Quality-of-Life Benefits for Older Adults.” Quality of Life Research 28 (12): 3267–72.

King, Abby C., James F. Sallis, Lawrence D. Frank, Brian E. Saelens, Kelli Cain, Terry L. Conway, James E. Chapman, David K. Ahn, and Jacqueline Kerr. 2011. “Aging in Neighborhoods Differing in Walkability and Income: Associations with Physical Activity and Obesity in Older Adults.” Social Science & Medicine 73 (10): 1525–33.

Nguyen, Huong Q., Ronald T. Ackermann, Matthew Maciejewski, Ethan Berke, Marsha Patrick, Barbara Williams, and James P. LoGerfo. 2008. “Managed-Medicare Health Club Benefit and Reduced Health Care Costs among Older Adults.” Preventing Chronic Disease 5 (1): A14.

Nyström, Markus B. T., Gregory Neely, Peter Hassmén, and Per Carlbring. 2015. “Treating Major Depression with Physical Activity: A Systematic Overview with Recommendations.” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 44 (4): 341–52.

“Report to Congress: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Evaluation of Community-Based Wellness and Prevention Programs under Section 4202 (b) of the Affordable Care Act.” 2013.

Snyder, Susan J., Meghan Thompson, and Paige Denison. 2015. “EnhanceFitness: A 20-Year Dissemination History.” Frontiers in Public Health 2 (270).

Travers, John, Roman Romero-Ortuno, Jade Bailey, and Marie-Therese Cooney. 2019. “Delaying and Reversing Frailty: A Systematic Review of Primary Care Interventions.” British Journal of General Practice 69 (678): e61–69.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2018. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Webber, Bryant J., Katrina L. Piercy, Eric T. Hyde, and Geoffrey P. Whitfield. 2022. “Association of Muscle-Strengthening and Aerobic Physical Activity With Mortality in US Adults Aged 65 Years or Older.” JAMA Network Open 5 (10): e2236778.

Zhao, Min, Sreenivas P. Veeranki, Costan G. Magnussen, and Bo Xi. 2020. “Recommended Physical Activity and All Cause and Cause Specific Mortality in US Adults: Prospective Cohort Study.” BMJ 370 (July): m2031.

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