How Much, How Often
Build up your endurance gradually, starting out with as
little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time, if
you need to.
Starting out at a lower level of effort and working your
way up gradually is especially important if you have been
inactive for a long time. It may take months to go from a
very long-standing sedentary lifestyle to doing some of the
activities suggested in this section.
Your goal is to work your way up, eventually, to a moderate-
to-vigorous level that increases your breathing and heart
rate. It should feel somewhat hard to you.
Once you reach your goal, you can divide your exercise
into sessions of no less than 10 minutes at a time, if you
want to, as long as they add up to a total of at least 30
minutes at the end of the day. Doing less than 10 minutes
at a time won't give you the desired cardiovascular and
respiratory system benefits. (The exception to this
guideline is when you have first made the decision to begin
doing endurance activities, and you are just starting out).
Your goal is to build up to a total of at least 30 minutes
of endurance exercise on most or all days of the week. More
often is better, and every day is best.
Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can't talk. They should not cause dizziness or
Do a little light activity before and after your endurance
exercise session, to warm up and cool down (example: easy
Stretch after your endurance activities, when your muscles
As you get older, your body may become less likely to
trigger the urge to drink when you need water. In other
words, you may need water, but you won't feel thirsty. Be
sure to drink fluids when you are doing any activity that
makes you lose fluid through sweat. The rule-of-thumb is
that, by the time you notice you are thirsty, you are
already some-what dehydrated (low on fluid). This guideline
is important year-round, but is especially important in hot
weather, when dehydration
is more likely. If your doctor
has asked you to limit your fluids, be sure to check with
him or her before increasing the amount of fluid you drink
while exercising. Congestive heart failure
disease are examples of chronic diseases that often require
Older adults can be affected by heat and cold more than
other adults can. In extreme cases, exposure to too much
heat can cause heat stroke, and exposure to very cold
temperatures can lead to hypothermia (a dangerous drop in
body temperature). If you are exercising outdoors, dress in
layers so you can add or remove clothes as needed.
Use safety equipment to prevent injuries. For example, wear
a helmet for bicycling, and wear protective equipment for
activities like skiing and skating. If you walk or jog,
wear stable shoes made for that purpose. Endurance activities should not make you breathe so hard that you can't talk.
Last Editorial Review: 3/3/2003
When you are ready to progress, build up the amount of
time you spend doing endurance activities first; then build
up the difficulty of your activities later. Example: First,
gradually increase your time to 30 minutes over several
days to weeks (or even months, depending on your condition)
by walking longer distances, then start walking up steeper
hills or walking more briskly.
Even very small changes in muscle size can make a big
difference in strength, especially in people who already
have lost a lot of muscle. An increase in muscle that's not
even visible to the eye can be all it takes to improve your
ability to do things like get up from a chair or climb
stairs. Your muscles are active even when you are sleeping.
Their cells are still doing the routine activities they
need to do to stay alive. This work is called metabolism,
and it uses up calories. That can help keep your weight in
check, even when you are asleep!
For more, please visit the Senior Center