Exercise Types

The following information about exercise types is based on that provided in the Choose Health: Be Active resource developed by the Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in association with Sports Medicine Australia.  The recommendations are based on the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults published by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

For more information on exercise types and recommendations see:



*Expert Tips prepared by an Accredited Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist on the INW PCP Physical Activity Directory for Older Adults Steering Group.

Moderate Fitness Activities

These activities help to keep you healthy, improve your fitness and do the tasks you need to do every day. These activities help to keep your heart, lungs and blood vessels healthy.

Moderate activities that can build endurance include 

  • walking the dog
  • yard and garden work (mowing, raking)
  • washing the car
  • dancing
  • tennis
  • cycling
  • brisk walking
  • gym based exercise programs
  • swimming
  • mopping and vacuuming

You should aim to do 30 minutes of activity from this group on most days. This can be in three lots of 10 minutes or two lots of 15 minutes. If you are just starting out, as little as 10 minutes helps!

Expert Tips:

For it to help your aerobic fitness, this exercise needs to be done continuously for at least 10 minutes at a pace that makes it possible to talk to yourself but not sing.

It is important that people who are overweight or have arthritis in their hips or knees are not doing aerobic exercise which causes high impact through these joints.  This might include running/ jogging on a treadmill/outdoors or doing aerobics which include bouncing around.

Strength Training

These activities help your muscles and bones stay strong and make it easier for you to do daily tasks as you get older.

Strength (or resistance) Training activities include :

  • weight, strength or resistance training (e.g. exercise with weights like dumbbells and/or machine weights).
  • climbing stairs or walking uphill
  • moderate  yard work (e.g. digging and shifting soil)
  • calisthenics (e.g. push ups and sit ups)

Make a time to do specific strength exercises two or three times a week, and build some of them into your everyday activities.

Expert Tips:

Loss of muscle strength is a normal part of ageing and must be actively dealt with or the consequences such as loss of independence will inevitably follow. Loss of strength especially in the lower body is a common cause of falls in the older person. On starting a strength training program at 2 sessions a week, you will notice significant changes in your ability after only 6 weeks.

Care must be taken to avoid injury.

Flexibility Activities

These activities help you to move more easily and maintain your independence and ability to do everyday tasks, such as putting on your shoes and socks. Flexibility activities include gentle reaching, bending and stretching.

Activities that can help to increase flexibility include :

  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • Stretching exercises

Balancing Activities

These activities require you to maintain a stable position and will improve your balance and help prevent falls.

Balancing activities may include :

  • standing on one foot
  • walking heel to toe (using support if needed)
  • feet strengthening exercises

For more information and ideas on balancing activities see page 19 and 21 of Choose Health: Be Active: A physical activity guide for older Australians

Expert Tips:

There are now specialist falls prevention programs which are happening in many Community Health Centres.  These include an exercise program which focuses on lower limb strength, balance and some education.  Contact your local Community Health centre to see if they are running a program.

Falls Prevention Exercise Programs

Research has shown that physical activity reduces the risk and rate of falls.[1]  Physical activity programs that aim to challenge balance and are undertaken regularly (e.g. undertaken for at least 2 hours per week) have the biggest impact on fall rates.[2]

Older Adults: Please consult a health professional and/or the falls prevention exercise program provider for individual advice on what falls prevention exercise program is most appropriate for you.

Recently published recommendations[3] to guide the use of exercise for falls prevention suggest that:

Exercise for falls prevention must provide a moderate or high challenge to balance and should aim to challenge balance in three ways:

  1. Reducing the base of support, for example:
    • Standing with both legs close together
    • Standing with one foot directly in front of the other
  2. Movement of the centre of gravity/control of the body’s position while standing, for example:
    • Reaching safely
    • Transferring the body weight from one leg to the other
    • Stepping up onto a block
  3. Reducing the need for upper limb support with exercises in standing that do not use the arms for support.  If this is not possible the aim should be to decrease reliance on the arms, for example:
    1. Hold onto a bar with one hand instead of both hands
    2. Rest one finger on a table ratherthan the whole hand

The authors note that exercises to challenge balance should be undertaken with care to ensure the activity in itself is not carried out in a manner that may increase the risk of falling[4].

For more information on recent exercise and falls prevention research and the 2011 best practice recommendations please see:

Sherrington, C., Tiedemann, A., Fairhal, N., Close JC., Lord SR. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 2011; 22: 78–83.

For more information on falls prevention please visit



[1]Gillespie LD, Robertson MC, Gillespie WJ, Lamb SE, Gates S, Cumming RG et al. Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2009; CD007146.

[2]Sherrington C, Whitney JC, Lord SR, Herbert RD, Cumming RG, Close JC. Effective exercise for the prevention of falls: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc 2008; 56(12): 2234–43. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.02014.x

[3]Sherrington, C., Tiedemann, A., Fairhal, N., Close JC., Lord SR. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 2011; 22: 78–83.

[4]Sherrington, C., Tiedemann, A., Fairhal, N., Close JC., Lord SR. Exercise to prevent falls in older adults: an updated meta-analysis and best practice recommendations. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 2011; 22: 78–83.