Elderly: This term goes beyond chronological age, as it also refers to the biological, psychological and social age. People can be considered old not only because they have reached the retirement age but also due to the reduction of physical strength.

Specific groups this Activity Box applies to

  • Adults 65+ years.
  •  It also applies to earlier ages when a person is already suffering the effects of getting older.


  • Between 2015-2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22% (30)
  • 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (running/fast walking); or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week can produce substantial health benefits in aged groups (177)

Why is it so important

Contribution: Sport and physical activity can provide tremendous benefits to the elderly both in body and mind:

Mental benefits:

  • Reduces social isolation by involving them more in local communities.
  • Improves quality of sleep.
  • Releases endorphins. The elderly involved in physical activity will feel happier and cheerful.
  • Increases global cognition, brain functionality and helps in combating diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Physical benefits:

  • Strength elderly’s ability to sit, stand and walk significantly easier.
  • Reduces different forms of mortality: cardiovascular disease, incident hypertension, incident site-specific cancers, incident type-2 diabetes.
  •  Conditions like obesity, underweight and malnutrition may also improve in seniors.
  • Prevent falls and falls-related injuries and declines in bone health and functional ability.

International endorsement

Who Global action plan on physical activity
Action 3.4: Enhance the provision of appropriately tailored programmes that increases physical activity and reduces sedentary behaviour in older adults in different settings to support healthy ageing.

Barriers to sport that should be overcome

  • Lack of Sport background in case old people hardly exercised when they were younger.
  • Spread information about elderly programmes: These groups barely use resources such as mailing and social media.
  • Non-inclusive infrastructure in case elderlies needs to use a lift, walker, wheelchair, etc.

Tips and key success factors

Consider levels of physical activity and health preconditions

  • It may be risky to start a programme with people who have not been physically active for more than a year.
  • They should obtain approval and recommendations from a physician to assess whether some of these diseases exist: Arthritis, heart or circulatory disease, kidney disease, lung disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s.

Understanding particular situations that may affect the elderly:

  • Fluids: In advanced age, thirst is only a late sign of poor hydration and elderlies generally drink less than necessary. Aging skin tends to thin, increasing basic fluid loss beyond that caused by perspiration.
  • Temperature: Advancing age increases sensitivity to both cold and heat.
  • Urinary Incontinence: Male-aged participants require to go to the bathroom more often than participants from other ages due to prostate problems.
  • Use of walking aid: Wheelchairs, walkers, rollators are often used by these groups. Sport facilities should include preferential access for this kind of device.

Physical activity routines performed properly and that do not cause injury

  • Include exercises that focus on restoring strength, flexibility, and endurance that are lost with aging.
  • Use slow and controlled movements to avoid muscle strain and bone fractures.
  • Be aware of introducing enough time for conversation, reflection, observation and perception in programmes.
  • Motivation for the elderly can also be increased by assigning them responsibilities.
  • Older adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, to achieve additional health benefits. (31)

Collaborating with senior homes and local associations

  • Community networks already exist and take care of the elderly.
  • Some already have specialists that may engage the elderly in physical activity.
  • Others will welcome bridges with Sport clubs, coaches, and specialists that may bring new activities.

Other Tips

  • Basic “Equipment” includes a comfortable dress that secures safe body temperature and proper footwear that prevents muscle strains and even bone fractures.
  • Home-based programmes should be controlled.
  • Measure physical results since physical fitness and quality of life are interrelated.
  • Adapt accessibility to Sport facilities and other spaces such as toilets, drinking stations, etc.
  • Consider professional guidance to ensure proper technique and safety when working with the elderly
  • Do not start a programme without addressing age, gender and level constraints.
  • Detect situations of overworking. Body expressions such as face colour and excessive sweating.

Available resources

  • Health Harvard: Mind and mood in aged people. Click Here
  • Well-being through group Sport: Taiwanese rugby union club. Click Here

Sample case

Tackling Alzheimer’s 

(International Table Tennis Federation and ITTF Foundation)

  • Weekly sessions and training development coach and clubs
  • Regular discussions with caregiver/caretakers
  • Launch of a coalition of clubs ready to get involved in such an initiative


More information:

Tackling Alzheimer’s, Levallois Club: France. Click Here