Key Takeaways

  • Experts say older adults should engage in moderate exercise and strength training each week, however less than one-third meet this recommendation.

  • The best exercise for seniors to prevent health problems and stay independent are aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening.

  • NCOA helps community organizations offer fun and evidence-based exercise and training programs to keep seniors active.

Regular exercise can help older adults stay independent and prevent many health problems that come with age. NCOA helps community organizations offer fun and proven programs that keep seniors moving.

The CDC 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends two types of physical activity each week to improve health—aerobic and muscle-strengthening. Experts recommend that older adults engage in:

  • Moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities for two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Statistics show that less than one-third of Americans aged 65+ meet this recommendation. However, there are many proven programs that can help keep seniors active. NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging connects community organizations to proven programs that empower older adults to engage in regular exercise. Explore these evidence-based physical activity programs, which have been proven to produce measurable health benefits for older adults.

Physical activity programs are supported by a variety of federal funding sources, including the Administration for Community Living discretionary grant funding, Older Amercans Act Title III-D funding, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant funding. Programs with an asterisk (*) meet the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance's crtieria for Arthritis-Appropriate Evidence-Based Interventions (AAEBIs). AAEBIs are programs that have been shown to improve arthritis symptoms, such as pain or limitations in function.  AAEBIs can be implemented with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding.

Active Choices

Active Choices is a six-month physical activity program that helps individuals incorporate preferred physical activities in their daily lives. The program is individualized for each person. Staff or volunteers are trained to provide regular, brief telephone-based guidance and support, and mail follow-up is delivered to participants’ homes.

Active Living Every Day*

Active Living Every Day (ALED) uses facilitated group-based problem-solving methods to integrate physical activity for seniors into everyday living. The program utilizes the ALED book and offers optional online support resources for participants and facilitators. ALED can be offered independently or with existing community-based physical activity programs.

AEA Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program*

AEA Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program is a recreational group exercise program conducted in warm water that consists of two levels, Basic and Plus, to accommodate different ability levels. Programs offer multiple components to help reduce pain and stiffness, and to maintain or improve mobility, muscle strength and functional ability.

AEA Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program*

AEA Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (Land-based) is a recreational group exercise program on land that includes a variety of exercises that can be performed sitting, standing or lying on the floor.   Programs offer multiple components to help reduce pain and stiffness, and to maintain or improve mobility, muscle strength and functional ability. 


Bingocize® strategically combines the game of bingo, exercise, and/or health education. Trained lay leaders may select between three separate 10-week units that focus on exercise-onlyexercise and falls prevention, or exercise and nutrition.

Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less

Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less is a 15-week online weight management program that uses evidence-based strategies proven to work to help participants achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Each lesson informs, empowers and motivates participants to live mindfully as they make choices about eating and physical activity.


EnhanceFitness (formerly Lifetime Fitness Program) is a low-cost, highly adaptable exercise program offering levels that are challenging enough for active older adults and levels that are safe enough for the unfit or near frail. One-hour group classes include stretching, flexibility, balance, low-impact aerobics, and strength training.

Fit and Strong!*

Fit and Strong! combines flexibility, strength training, and aerobic walking with health education for sustained behavior change among older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis. Fit and Strong! works with providers across the country to deliver an eight-week program that improves lower extremity stiffness, pain, and strength, aerobic capacity, participation in exercise and caloric expenditure, and self-efficacy for exercise.


Geri-Fit® is a progressive resistance strength training exercise program designed to increase strength, flexibility, range of motion, mobility, gait, and balance. Exercises are performed seated in chairs (optional standing) in a group setting class. Ongoing classes are held twice-weekly for 45 minutes.

Healthy Moves for Aging Well

Healthy Moves for Aging Well is a simple and safe in-home physical activity intervention developed and tested by Partners in Care to enhance the activity level of frail, high-risk sedentary seniors living at home. The model was developed for community-based care management programs arranging and delivering services to seniors in the home.

On the Move

On the Move (OTM) is a group-based exercise program for older adults, designed to target key principles of the biomechanics and motor control of walking. The program contains a warm-up, stepping patterns, walking patterns, strengthening exercises, and cool-down exercises. 

Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL)*

The core feature of a SAIL Program is a community-based fitness class that meets 3 times weekly for one hour. The fitness class includes warm-up, aerobics, balance, strength training and stretching exercises that can be done in a seated or standing position. Periodic Fitness Checks track general mobility, arm strength and leg strength.

Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention*

The goals of Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention (also known as Tai Chi for Arthritis) are to: 1) Improve movement, balance, strength, flexibility, immunity and relaxation; 2) Decrease pain and falls; 3) socialization and sustainability.

Tai Chi Prime

Tai Chi Prime is a six-week class series proven to reduce the risk of falling. Classes feature instruction in tai chi and qi gong basics, home practice coaching, home practice, and exercises to embed into activities of daily living. 

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance®*

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance® is an evidence-based fall prevention program derived from a contemporary routine known as Simplified 24-Form Tai Ji Quan (pronounced tye gee chuwan). TJQMBB consists of an 8-form core with built-in practice variations and a subroutine of Tai Ji Quan - Mini Therapeutic Movements®, which, collectively, comprise a set of functional Tai Ji Quan exercises. 

Walk with Ease*

The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk with Ease program helps participants develop a walking plan that meets their particular needs, stay motivated, manage pain, and exercise safely. The Walk with Ease materials are based on programs that have been successfully implemented in research settings and have resulted in such benefits as increased physical activity, increased walking distance and speed, decreased pain, and decreased depression.