Staying physically active provides many health benefits as you age. Regular exercise can help you maintain strength, flexibility, and balance. Fun exercises for seniors also help prevent falls.
This article outlines fun, low-impact exercises perfect for seniors. You’ll learn moves you can do at home to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and keep your joints limber.
We’ll cover simple activities like balance, standing, core, and seated chair exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
You’re never too old to start exercising.
Following an exercise routine that’s safe and tailored to your needs can help you stay active and improve your quality of life as a senior.
The Importance of Exercise for Older Adults
The body goes through many changes as it ages. As we age, we tend to have less energy, our muscles will feel weaker, and mobility issues start to surface. According to a 2017 exercise study, regular physical activity can slow down the aging process. Researchers have found that older adults who maintain an active lifestyle live longer and healthier lives.
Exercises for Seniors with Pictures
Because the body is no longer in its prime, it is important to be mindful of how you move. The ideal exercises for older people should be low-impact and focus on improving strength and balance.
Remember to start slow and increase the number and frequency of exercises over time.
Make sure to stretch afterward, ideally holding stretching poses for 30 seconds.
Below are some effective and easy exercises for seniors that you can do on a regular basis:
Balance Exercises for Older Adults
Prioritizing balance helps older adults maintain mobility, independence, and a healthy, engaged lifestyle for longer. Balance training provides both physical and psychological benefits.
Balance exercises for seniors also help improve recovery, promote independence, and reduce the risk of falls by strengthening muscles, tendons, and joints.
- One Leg Stance – Stand behind a solid chair and hold on to the back of the chair for support. Lift your right foot and balance on one leg. Hold the pose as long as you can and try to balance on your own. Repeat on the other leg.
- Heel-to-Toe Walk – Stand beside a table or wall for support. Walk slowly, placing your right foot in front of the left, touching the heel on the toe. Take 10 steps forward, turn around, and walk back the same way.
- Toe Lifts – Hold on to a chair. Slowly stand and place your feet hip width apart. Slowly Raise your heels to stand on your tip toes and then slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat 15 times.
- March in Place – Stand next to a steady surface you can hold onto for support. Lift your right knee up and lower it back down. Repeat on the other leg and march in place.
Standing Exercises for Mobility
Standing mobility exercises address multiple components that tend to decline with age – strength, balance, flexibility, bone density, posture, and coordination.
Standing exercises engage the major muscle groups in the hips, legs, and abdomen which are important for mobility. Declines in leg strength directly impact the ability to get around.
- Hip Circles – Stand up tall and place both hands on the hips. Make a circular motion with your hips clockwise. Repeat in the other direction.
- Sit-to-Stand – While sitting on a chair, push off from your knees and slowly stand straight. Complete the rep by sitting back down slowly.
- Farmer’s Walk – While holding small weights in your hands, walk forward slowly. Repeat in the opposite direction.
- Hamstring Curl – Hold on to a chair for support. While standing, bend your knee to lift your foot up behind you. Bring it back down and repeat with the other leg. For an additional add ankle weights to this exercise.
Core Stability Exercises for Balance
Training the core muscles with specific stability exercises reaps multiple balance benefits for seniors. These exercises work on trunk control and posture needed to comfortably perform either stationary or mobile activities without losing your balance.
The core muscles of the abdomen, lower back, hips, and pelvis provide foundational support and stability for the body.
- Resistance Band Pull Apart – Using a light resistance band, hold on to each of its ends and pull apart slowly. Repeat 10 times.
- Seated Leg Press – While in a seated position, tie a resistance band above the knee area. Slowly open the thighs and close back again. Repeat 10 times.
- Bridge – Lie flat on your back and keep the knees bent. Raise your hips up slowly and hold the pose for a few seconds. Lower back down.
- Leg Lift – While lying flat on the floor, slowly lift one leg up and hold the pose. Lower back down slowly. Repeat with the other leg.
Seated Exercises for Seniors
Seated exercises are low impact and gentle on the joints, making them safe and accessible for seniors. They minimize the strain and/or pain that standing puts on the back, hips, knees, etc.
Chair exercises for seniors improve strength, increase flexibility, and provide stability by removing balance challenges.
- Seated Knee Extension – While sitting, extend and straighten one leg. Hold the pose for 3 seconds. Lower back down and repeat with the other leg.
- Seated Jumping Jacks – Sit up straight close to the edge of the chair. Quickly open your legs out to the side and extend both arms up over the head, like a jumping jack motion. Repeat this 10 times.
- Seated Shoulder Rolls – Sit up comfortably with your back straight. Shrug your shoulders up and rotate in a circular motion. Repeat in the other direction.
- Seated Tap Dance – While in a seated position, extend one leg and point your toe with one foot. Tap the floor with your toe. Flex your extended leg and tap the floor with your heel. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.
Seated Dumbbell Exercises for Seniors
Resistance training using light dumbbells can help improve strength, balance, and mobility.
- Sit upright with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended, and palms facing forward.
- Lift the dumbbells to shoulder level by bending your elbows.
- Hold for 2 seconds.
- Lower slowly back to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
- Hold dumbbells at ear level with elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms forward.
- Fully extend arms to push the dumbbells overhead.
- Slowly lower back to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Hold a dumbbell overhead with arms fully extended.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head, keeping your elbows close to your ears.
- Extend your arms to lift the dumbbell back overhead.
- Complete 3 sets of 15 reps.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms by your sides.
- Slowly lift the dumbbells out to the sides until shoulder level, with elbows slightly bent.
- Lower your arms back to the starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
- Lift the dumbbells in front of you until shoulder level, keeping elbows slightly bent.
- Lower back to starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
- Place a dumbbell on your thigh for resistance.
- Lift one leg at a time a few inches off the floor.
- Hold for 2 seconds, then lower slowly.
- Complete 3 sets of 15 reps per leg.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level with elbows bent.
- Push the dumbbells straight out until arms are fully extended.
- Slowly bring back to starting position.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
Strength Training Exercises
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and strength. Strength training helps counteract this by stimulating muscle growth. Building muscle can help seniors stay independent and carry out daily tasks.
Strength training for seniors also supports bone health, improves balance and stability, increases metabolism, and reduces inflammation.
- Overhead Press – While seated, extend both arms over your head while holding weights. Slowly bring them back down and repeat.
- Arm Curl – Stand tall with your back straight and hold dumbbells in each hand. Lift the weight with one hand, keeping your elbow close to your rib. Slowly bring it back down and repeat with the other arm.
- Weighted Row – While seated, lean forward at a 45-degree angle and keep your back flat. Lift the dumbbell on your side and slowly bring it back down, while keeping your angled position. Repeat on the other side.
- Dumbbell Squat – Start in a standing position with the weights in each hand. Slowly bend your knees to a squatting position and hold the pose. Straighten back up and repeat.
How Much Exercise is Recommended for Seniors?
According to the CDC, adults aged 65 years and above need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity in one week. To be safe, it is always best to consult with your doctor first.
Seniors Should Avoid These Exercises
The specific exercises for older adults to avoid will depend on the physical abilities and mobility range of the individual. In general, seniors should avoid these exercises:
- High-Intensity Interval Training
- Standard pull-ups
- Stair climbs
- Long-distance runs
- Abdominal crunches
- Bench press
- Heavy weights
- Any high-impact exercise
How To Encourage Seniors to Exercise
It isn’t uncommon for older adults to feel reluctant about working out. They may be feeling tired or even fearful to try a new activity. To encourage your loved one to be more active, start with simple exercises that won’t be too overwhelming.
Join in and make the workout fun. You can celebrate with progress parties to keep their motivation from stalling out.
How Many Steps Should a 65-Year-old Take per Day?
According to studies, about 7,000 – 8,000 steps are enough for healthy older adults. Those who have chronic conditions and mobility issues may aim for a lower number. What’s important is to keep moving as much as possible. If your loved one has difficulty getting out and about on their own, you may consider hiring a private caregiver to provide companionship and supervision.
Keeping up with a regular fitness routine is essential to good health, regardless of your age. Low-impact exercises that build strength and improve balance are the best kinds of exercise for seniors. With a regular routine of mindful workouts, you can enjoy a happier, healthier, and more meaningful life.
The best types of exercises for older adults are those that focus on balance, standing, mobility, core stability, and strength. The following is a list of each type of exercise.
- Balance exercises include one-leg balance, heel-to-toe walk, toe lifts, and march-in-place.
- Standing exercises include hip circles, sit-to-stand, farmer’s walk, and hamstring curls.
- Core stability exercises include resistance band pulls, seated leg presses, bridges, and leg lifts.
- Seated exercises include seated knee extension, seated jumping jacks, seated shoulder rolls, and seated tap dance.
- Weight exercises include overhead presses, arm curls, weighted rows, and dumbbell squats.
Exercises for Seniors Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can build muscle after age 65. Muscles respond differently as the body ages but seniors can still build muscles. The key to building muscle is by doing resistance exercises like lifting weights or using stretchy bands.
Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga are the best kind of workouts for seniors. These activities can effectively condition the body while being gentle on the joints and muscles.
High-intensity workouts should be skipped, as they can be harmful to fragile bones. Exercises that place too much pressure on joints like deadlifts, squats, and crunches should also be avoided.
Keeping physically active has many benefits for the mind, body, and soul. Seniors who exercise regularly have been shown to have better cardiovascular health, reduced anxiety, better sleep, and improved well-being.
Before starting any fitness program, it is best to consult with your doctor first. Start slowly and build up as you go along. Seniors are advised to do 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week.
Pilates Instructor and Fitness Expert
Beth is a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor in Matwork and Reformer with training in Stability Chair, Cadillac, Injuries and Special Populations, Barre, and various props. Beth has a little over 10 years of experience working with older adults and helping them achieve their fitness goals.