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Is Exercise OK for Me?

Physical activity may help you manage your condition.

man and woman on golf course

If you have a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis, exercise may be beneficial to you. Don't let a health problem prevent you from being active.

Physical activity may help:

  • Make you stronger. Increasing your strength can help with daily activities such as carrying your groceries, picking up your grandchildren or climbing stairs.
  • Increase flexibility and endurance. Regular physical activity can help you get around easier and participate more fully in life.
  • Lift your mood. For some people, living with a chronic disease can lead to depression. Physical activity may help reduce depression.
  • Improve your quality of life. Exercise is linked to better sleep and some studies show it may help improvement in how you think, learn and remember.
  • Lower the risk of developing new chronic conditions. Physical activity has been tied to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.   

Ask your doctor

Before you start or increase your physical activity, check with your doctor. Exercise is good for most people, but you should make sure it’s safe for you. Discuss which activities may be better for you, considering your condition. Your doctor or a fitness professional may be able to find ways to adapt physical activity to be appropriate for you and determine if there are any specific activities you should avoid. They can also tell you about warning signs to look for, how to prevent that from happening, and what steps you should take if any of the warning signs or symptoms develop.

A certified fitness professional can also help you set goals and design an appropriate exercise program.

Getting started

Make physical activity a part of your daily life. Walking, gardening, golfing, dancing or even cleaning all count as physical activity.

Start slowly so you don't injure yourself or get discouraged. For example, you might need to start with exercise every other day at first and build up from there. If you can only be active for 10 or 15 minutes, start there. Being active for 10 minutes three times a day is just as good as being active for 30 minutes at a time.

The goal for most adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days or more of strength training each week.

Keep in mind that if you have health conditions that prevent you from reaching these goals, with your doctor’s help, set goals that meet your abilities. Remember, some activity is better than doing nothing at all. It’s important to avoid being inactive.  Additionally, moving more and sitting less has been shown to decrease mortality.

However you choose to build activity into your day, it can be beneficial. As you get more physically fit, you gradually build endurance over time.

Small steps can add up

Try to do a combination of different exercises: aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance.

Aerobic activity increases your oxygen use and helps your heart and lungs work better. Walking, swimming and biking are examples of aerobic activity.

Strength training, sometimes called resistance training, can help improve muscle and bone strength and entails lifting any sort of weight. That could be anything from lifting free weights or using resistance bands to carrying bags of groceries. Your own body weight can also be used in strength training. Sit-ups, push-ups and planking exercises can all help build muscle.

Improving flexibility and balance are also important as – especially for older adults - this type of activity may help prevent falls and improve your range of motion. Try gentle stretches after warming up your muscles or try tai chi or yoga.

Improving flexibility and balance are also important as this type of activity may help prevent falls and improve your range of motion. Try gentle stretches after warming up your muscles or try tai chi or yoga.

How can you include activity in your daily life?

Here are some good ways to get active:

  • Walking. All you need are shoes and a place to walk.
  • Exercise classes. A fitness class can motivate you, and you can also meet old friends or make new ones.
  • Aquatic exercises. Exercising in the water adds buoyance and reduces stress on the joints.
  • Yoga. Doing yoga covers three types of exercise: strength, balance and flexibility.
  • Working around the house. You can rake, carry groceries or mow the lawn — anything that gets you moving.
  • Lifting weights. Using hand-held and ankle weights builds strength.

By Mary Armstrong, Contributing Writer

Stanford University’s reprint of the 2018 guidelines can be found here: Accessed June 17, 2021.
Journal of American Medical Association. The physical activity guidelines for Americans. Accessed June 14, 2021.
National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging. Four types of exercise can improve your health and physical ability. Accessed: June 17, 2021.
National Institutes of Health National Institute on Aging. How older adults can get started with exercise. Accessed June 14, 2021.

Last Updated: June 28, 2021