Use It Or Lose It: Exercise in Older People


Loss of muscle mass and decline in brain function are parts of the aging process which can lead to increase physical inactivity, reduce mobility and increase dependency for elderly. In order to maintain physical and mental health, we need to exercise our body parts and our brain regularly.

How to do it?

Physical activity that recommended by WHO for adults > 65 years old:

What is moderate intensity aerobic physical activity?

Moderate intensity aerobic physical activity will raise our heart rate, make us breathe faster and feel warmer. We still can talk during the exercise but cant sing a song.
Brisk walking
Ballroom and line dancing
Cycling at level ground
Playing double tennis

What is vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity?

Vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity will increase our heart beat and breathing more, and we cant speak more than few words during exercise.

Running or jogging
Swimming fast
Cycling fast or on hills
Playing single tennis
Playing football
Hiking uphill


What is muscle strengthening activity?

Muscle strengthening activity is counted in sets and repetitions. For each activity, try to do it in 10-15 repetitions, and try to complete at least 2-3 sets to gain health benefits from it.

Some suggestions of simple muscle strengthening exercise that’s can be done at home for elderly: (pictures to follow)

Upper Limbs :

Lower Limbs :


What are the benefits of exercise in older adults?

Brain Stimulating Activity

Brain is like our muscles, it needs mental exercise to keep it active, and to slow down degeneration process.

However we do not have a recommended schedule of brain exercise like the physical exercise mentioned above. There are wide range of brain stimulating activities that can be done depends on the elderly’s education level and social cultural background. Something which the elderly find it meaningful and enjoyable is the key principle in choosing brain stimulating activity.

Some examples and suggestions for brain stimulating activity:

Daily activity

Hobby and Crafts

Games and Puzzles

Social Interaction

Learning New Things

All the activities mentioned above are just suggestion for a healthy elderly, if the elderly is having some medical illness, kindly consult the doctor before doing it.

DR. TEH HOON LANG is a Geriatrician based at Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah, Alor Setar.