What is physical activity

Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles that results in a considerable increase over the energy expenditure at rest.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

  • Physical inactivity has the fourth leading risk factor for mortality globally.
  • Globally, 1 in 4 adults is not active enough.
  • More than 80% of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.


The World Health Organisation recommendations for physical activity can be found here on this website. 

Although regular physical activity has profound benefits, it is important that the incidence of complications is considered during exercise. Here is an adult pre-exercise screening tool from the Exercise & Sports Science Australia 



Other things to consider:

Ensure medical clearance/follow up
Complete the “PAR-Q & You
Ensure appropriate equipment
Avoid ‘too much, too soon’
Previous injury/co-morbidities
Provide education on the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease during exercise
Promote a gradual increase in activity over time
Encourage appropriate warm-up and cool-down





  • When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
  • Strength training may lead to modest increase aerobic capacity in older adults (Liu and Latham 2009)
    • Note: training should be at least 55-65% of maximum heart rate for 20-60 minutes for 3-5 days per week to increase cardiorespiratory fitness (ACSM 1998)

For physical activity recommendations for older adults, see here.

Typically, ageing in older adults has focused on the prevention of chronic disease. However, measures are being taken to promote and reduce the frailty, and improve the independence, cognitive function and mental health of older adults (Bauman, 2017) with data from the National Institute on Aging (2011) suggesting >95% of older adults prefer to stay in their own homes.

Below is a conceptual framework for the benefits of physical activity in older adults.

Resistance training has shown similar benefits for older adults in maintaining or increasing muscle mass, mitigating the effects of muscle loss with ageing. See our strength after 60.