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Transitions in Aging

Successful Aging

Ways to Age Successfully: Physical Well-being

PHOTO of a woman using a weight machine with her arms

  • Participate in physical activities
      - 30 minutes of aerobic exercises
      - 20 minutes of resistance exercises
      - 10 minutes of stretching
  • Places
      - Home
      - Parks and hiking trails
      - Gym

NEXT: Intellectual Well-being and Aging

Notes and References

Most of us tend to be less active as we get older, even though we know exercise is good for our health.1

Research tells us that exercising will help improve the way our heart and lungs work, which can reduce our risk for developing diseases. To be healthy, researchers suggest that we get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.2 To maintain our physical well-being, think about physical activity as 3, 2, 1. In one hour of time, 30 minutes should be spent on exercise that makes you breathe heavy, such as running or walking (that is the 3), 20 minutes on muscle building exercises, such as lifting weights (that is the 2), and 10 minutes on stretching (that is the 1).3 Muscle building exercises are recommended only 3 days a week, but we should make sure we do exercises that make us breathe heavy more often. Again, at the very least, we should participate in physical activities at least 30 minutes most days of the week. This 30 minutes of time can be split up throughout the day. So think about walking for 10 minutes after every meal! Remember, ALWAYS talk to your doctor or your physical therapist before participating in any physical activity.

Sometimes we do not feel motivated to do physical activities. Here are tricks to making exercise more enjoyable. Exercising in a group setting with friends or listening to our favorite music can make exercising fun!  A few places to do physical activities include local parks and recreation facilities, YMCA and adult day programs.3 We can also check out some organized physical activity programs. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability has a program called 14 Weeks to a Healthier You. With the program, we can develop our own physical activity and nutrition program online that we can participate in from home!3 Visit the website in the resources tab for motivation, support, tips and recipes for a healthier you. Again, do not forget to talk to your doctor before participating in new exercise, physical activity, or diet.

Let's talk about an example of being physically active. Lucy has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. Her doctor just discussed with her how exercise can help strengthen her abdominal muscles and reduce her levels of pain and feeling of fatigue. Her doctor recommended that she try seated exercises. After thinking about her doctor's suggestion, she decided to give it a try and look for seated exercises on the website of the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability at She found a video about seated stretching exercise that fits her needs:

She followed the video and did the seated stretching exercises 2 times a week for 5-10 minutes each time. She stuck with it even though her muscles were sore the first couple of days. After a couple of weeks, her pain has decreased and her energy has increased! Because of the positive results, Lucy is going to increase her exercise routine and look on the website for different strengthening exercises. She found that following the exercise videos makes the time fly by quicker. She also includes her exercise time as part of her daily routine so she will remember to do it.


  1. Burke, E., McCarron, M., Carroll, R., McGlinchey, E., & McCallion, P. (2014). What it's like to grow older: The aging perceptions of people with an intellectual disability in Ireland. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 52(3), 205-219.
  2. Haber, D. (2013). Health promotion and aging: Practical applications for health professionals. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
  3. National Center on Health, Physical Fitness and Disability. (2015). 14 weeks to a healthier you. Retrieved from