Sitting is the new smoking! Research shows a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of many chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancers and even Alzheimer’s. Research into risk for Alzheimer’s Disease reports that a sedentary lifestyle is equal to a strong family history.

What do the experts recommend?

The CDC recommends adults over 50 get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 3-5 times a week plus weight training, balance and flexibility exercises 3-5 times a week.

Our Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health physical therapy team recommends this combination:


  • 5 days a week
  • 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity
  • Moderate intensity means you can talk but not sing while exercising.
  • Aim for your target heart rate (see box above)
  • Walk, hike, bike, swim, dance, or just move


  • 3-5 days a week
  • 10 minutes each session
  • Hold each stretch 30 to 90 seconds
  • Stretch muscles through a full range of motion
  • Tai Chi, yoga, and stretching


  • 2 days a week
  • 1 set per muscle group, with 8-12 repetitions per set
  • Exercise all major muscle groups with a 2-day minimum rest in between.
  • Squats, lunges, planks, bicep curls, tricep press-down, shoulder press, etc.


  • 2-3 days a week
  • Sit to stand
  • Stand with feet touching side by side
  • Stand heel to toe
  • Walk backwards and sideways
  • Walk on heels and toes
  • Stand on one leg
  • Yoga or Tai Chi class

The trouble with exercise is… getting started.

Not ready? Sometimes a gym membership or exercising outside isn’t convenient, accessible or affordable. Visions of running on a treadmill may seem too far away or simply awful.

Start with small steps. Make it convenient.  And then build on your achievements.

Shaina Meyer, OTR/L, MSCS, Clinical Rehab Manager, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health says, “make exercise part of a daily routine, check-off your daily accomplishment on a calendar or log and make it fun.”

Let your four-legged friend help.

While a dog is a great exercise companion, you may not have one or you may spend many hours in an office chair or confined to your couch. So, let your chair be your new workout partner! Squeeze-in a little gentle, no sweat movement several times a day. Do some leg lifts, stretches or lift light weights.

Stand up. Sit down. Move.

Christy Ross, PT, DPT, GCS, CDP, MSCS Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health physical therapist, recommends these examples of exercise you can perform with your chair. 

Sit to Stand

From a chair with or without arm rests, scoot to the edge and place your feet shoulder width apart. Lean forward so your nose is over your toes and stand up. Stand with upright posture for a few seconds before slowly sitting back down in the chair. Do not plop back down onto the chair!

Knee Extension (LAQ)

While seated with your knees bent and your heels touching the ground, slowly straighten one knee as you raise your foot upward. Slowly lower your foot back to the starting position and repeat

Hamstring Stretch – Seated

While seated, rest your heel on the floor with your knee straight and gently lean forward until a stretch is felt behind your knee/thigh.

Marching – Standing

While standing, draw up one knee, set it down and then alternate on your other side. Use your arms for support if needed for balance and safety.

Marching – Seated

While seated in a chair, draw up one knee, set it down and then alternate on your other side.

Heel Raises – Standing

While standing with your feet hip width apart, bring your heels off the ground as you raise up on your toes. Hold for the time indicated and return to starting position. Use the support indicated for balance.

Toe Raises – Seated

In a standing position with your feet on the ground, raise up your forefeet and toes as you bend at your ankles.

You did it!

“Give yourself a reward,” says Ms. Meyer. “If you stick to an exercise routine 5 days a week, then you get ice cream!”

Need help?

Our Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health physical therapy department conducts weekly fitness classes to help get you moving.

For more motivation to exercise read these exercise tips and recommendations.