At Lynn Valley, we always encourage certain exercises for seniors to stay active. While old age should be a time of rest, seniors need to do their exercises to stay healthy as much as the rest of us. In fact, research in recent years has shown a much-improved quality of life and longevity in people who keep active compared to those who live a sedentary lifestyle. Exercising keeps seniors’ bodies strong, healthy and vital while keeping the mind sharp. Seniors who work out can even prevent or slow the natural decline of both mental and physical health as they age.
But which exercises are suitable for seniors? Here’s our take on some of the best exercises for seniors to try out.
The 8 Best Exercises for Seniors
The beauty of walking is in its simplicity; we learn to do it in our first couple of years! Taking a daily walk is an excellent way to keep our weight in check, strengthen our muscles and bones, reduce blood pressure and keep our joints flexible. If you can’t fit in a full workout, you can usually find the time or the need to walk 10,000 steps.
The 10,000-step recommendation may sound arbitrary, but it’s based on extensive research. A report in PLOS One found that people who increased their activity levels to 10,000 steps each day were 46% less likely to pass away in the following 10 years compared to those who remained sedentary.
Water Aerobic Exercises for Seniors
Achy joints are often a barrier to exercise for elderly people. Performing movements in the water can take the strain off and help ease arthritic pain. The water provides resistance without the need for heavy weights.
As we grow older, our muscles can atrophy and bones lose their density, but undertaking strength exercises such as water aerobics can counteract these problems.
Some water aerobic exercises include:
- Aqua Jogging
- Leg Lifts
- Standing Water Push-ups
- Arm Curls
- Flutter Kicking
Swimming is an excellent exercise for seniors and older people. Swimming is a full-body workout that’s easy on the joints, can be as relaxing or taxing as you like and gets you out of the house.
The benefits of swimming include:
- Improved cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure. As the body’s engine, we all know the importance of good heart health. Having a healthy heart can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Stronger, more stable core muscles. This helps elders stay balanced and prevent falls. An older adult is reportedly admitted to the emergency room every 11 seconds due to a fall.
- A boost to flexibility which improves posture and eases muscle pain.
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis by maintaining healthy bones.
- Better mental health by reducing stress and releasing chemicals in the brain which help it run smoothly, boosting mood and cognition.
Yoga and Chair Yoga
Yoga helps to build strong, healthy muscles and bones through slow, extended body movements. While there are no weights involved, you support your bodyweight in every pose, so you can safely build up strength. Through measured breathing, gentle movement and being present in one’s own body, yoga does wonders for stress, releasing tension built up in the muscles and the mind.
It’s never too late to start using your body in a new and more efficient way. Pilates has a focus on building core strength without any heavy impact movements that seniors might struggle with. Our strength, focus, balance, flexibility and breathing are all likely to change with age, but they can always be improved.
The beauty of Pilates is that the intensity can be adjusted depending on how you feel on a given day. Seniors can build endurance and confidence over time, taking their Pilates experience from a gentle exercise to a high-energy workout.
Strength training can be beneficial for older people as part of a regular workout routine. Using dumbbells can help seniors maintain balance and stability, improve joint health, keep their weight stable, retain or build bone density and increase metabolic fitness.
Having a set of adjustable dumbbells or a small range of weights is ideal for beginners or people who haven’t worked out in a while.
Some ideal dumbbell workouts for seniors include:
- Front Raise
- Arm Curl
- Triceps Extension
- Overhead Press
- Bent-Over Rows
- Suitcase Rows
- Forward Lunge
- Shoulder Squat
Cheap, simple, effective: bodyweight exercises can be great for your health at any age. As with many of the exercises in this list, bodyweight exercises allow you to control the intensity of your workout more effectively, so a senior won’t get into a situation where they’re holding up a dangerous amount of weight.
Some excellent bodyweight exercises for seniors are:
- Seated Leg Extensions
- Step Ups
- Seated Twists
- Seated Toe Taps
- Toe Lifts
- Leg Lifts
- Standing Marches
- Wall Push Ups
Resistance Band Workouts
Resistance bands are portable, lightweight and inexpensive. If a senior likes to work out in their home in winter and outside in summer, or even at the park or a friend’s house, a resistance band is a simple and effective piece of equipment to help them along the way. Incorporating resistance bands into their regular exercises will help seniors to increase muscle strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and range of motion.
Top Exercises for Seniors to Avoid
Most seniors will know straight away which exercises just aren’t suitable for them anymore. However, as no two people are the same, some older people have so much vitality that they will throw themselves into any activity with the energy of a youngster. While we never want to limit what an older person can do, here are some exercises that can be dangerous to older people who are inexperienced.
- Squats With Dumbbells Or Weights
- Bench Press
- Leg Press
- Long-Distance Running
- Abdominal Crunches
- Upright Row
- High-Intensity Interval Training
It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. This is especially true if you haven’t done a particular exercise before or have taken an extensive break from physical activity.
If you’re an older person or just care for one, we hope this list has given you some food for thought on why exercising is worth committing to at any age. At the very least, it should open your eyes to the possibilities still open to all of us as we grow older. After all, growing old and growing strong aren’t mutually exclusive!