Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q:  How much exercise do seniors really need?

A:For years, we’ve been reminded that 10,000 steps per day was the magic number to keep you healthy and fit. The tech world responded with step counters on our smart phones and watches to incentivize us toward our daily goal. Research suggests the 10k number might be more marketing than hard science. So how much exercise do seniors really need to be healthy?

Step History

A Japanese company invented the pedometer back in the early 1960s. It just so happens the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a person walking –so the device was named the 10,000 step-meter. But there was actually zero scientific basis for the idea of walking 10,000 steps!

New Research

In 2019, Harvard epidemiologist I-Min Lee published her multi-year study on the effects of the 10,000 step goal. The new research concluded that people younger than 60 should walk 8,000-10,000 steps per day, and those over 60 between 6,000 and 8,000 steps (3-4 miles). They determined that older people expend more energy per step, thereby achieving the same health benefits with fewer steps. The data jives with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation for 150-300 minutes of brisk walking each week. After age 85, however, the recommendation drops to 10 minutes of walking every day.

Cardio Benefits

Reaching your step counts consistently can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke by 40-50 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health. The National Cancer Institute finds that higher daily step counts among older adults reduces mortality from ALL causes of death.

Work Your Muscles

The Center for Disease Control recommends that seniors do strength-building exercises at least twice weekly in addition to aerobic exercise. Using even light weights helps maintain bone density, especially in women at risk for osteoporosis. In addition to preventing bone and muscle loss, evidence suggests weightlifting may even help prevent dementia. Swimming combines strength training and aerobic exercise and is especially great for seniors who suffer from joint pain.

Silver Sneakers

Some Medicare Advantage plans include fitness memberships. Silver Sneakers is one of many nation-wide fitness programs that partner with Medicare insurance companies. Members get access to online classes, on-demand videos and thousands of locations/classes nationwide.

The good news is you don’t need any fancy equipment to reach your fitness goal. You can take 8,000 steps in place in your own home. And soup cans make great “weights” in place of dumbbells! The important thing to do is keep moving, stay strong –and live long!

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.