Choose Health: Be Active: A physical activity guide for older Australians

Coping with chronic health problems

Page last updated: March 2009

Most health problems can actually be helped by activity – but check with your doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, podiatrist or local fitness centre about the type and amount of activity you can do.

Remember to start slowly and don’t push yourself too hard. Be kind to yourself – but be active in as many ways as you can.

"Most of us don’t feel the impact of ill-health until something dramatic happens – like a heart attack or diabetes. If we had known we were going to live this long we would have taken more care of ourselves. We didn’t care a tinker’s curse when we were young – we thought we were bullet proof."

Suggested activities for different health problems

Heart problems and/or diabetes

Daily moderate fitness activities like walking, swimming or cycling. Resistance (or strength) training should only be commenced under supervision, two or three times a week.


Your ability to exercise will depend on the stage of treatment you are at. Talk to your doctor or other health professional about what you can do.


Hydrotherapy is excellent. If there is no program near where you live, try swimming in a warm pool.
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Weight bearing activity and strength training can help to make bones stronger.

'Crook' knees and back

Talk to your physiotherapist about strengthening exercises.

Foot problems

Talk to your podiatrist about exercises that can help.

Mental health problems (including post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] )

Daily moderate fitness activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, playing sport, and strength training exercises two or three times a week.

Lung problems (including asthma)

Swimming, walking, cycling and tennis are less likely to induce asthma, especially if the asthma is well controlled. If you have other
lung problems such as obstructive pulmonary disease, check with your doctor about exercise that is suitable for you.

Mobility problems

There are lots of chair based activities you can do – ask your physiotherapist to help work out what is best for you.

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