Although it can be challenging to engage in regular exercise, especially as aging impacts the entire body, older adults in particular from at least two and a half hours of physical activity each week according to the National Institute on Aging, or as much as physically possible. Regular exercise can help senior citizens maintain their active lifestyles, keeping their balance and muscle strength in good shape. To maintain their overall health, seniors should look for activities that meet the four main types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.
- Endurance activities are usually aerobic exercises that work on activating the heart rate, helping prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Strength-building activities focus on building muscle mass and maintaining muscle strength, helping seniors keep the ability to continue with the activities in their daily life.
- Balance exercises focus on core strength and can engage the entire body, lowering the risk of serious falls and resulting injuries.
- Flexibility exercises include stretching and focus on mobility, helping older adults stay healthy for their active lifestyles.
It’s also highly recommended that seniors should engage in strength training exercises that include components of aerobic exercise and balance on a regular basis, which can provide specific health benefits. Below are some easy home exercises that can help both older adults with limited mobility and adults engaging in active lifestyles to stay healthy and strong.
Exercising at Home
1. Weight Shifts
Weight shifts are a simple exercise targeted at building strength in your lower body and your abdominal muscles, helping with your balance. Be careful, and use a wall or a chair for support when practicing. Get into a starting position with your feet hip-width apart standing upright. Then, shift all of your weight onto your left foot and lift your right foot. Keep the foot on the ground for as long as you can in proper form (without hunching or shifting your weight elsewhere). Then, try this exercise again lifting the left foot and keeping the right foot grounded. Start slow and work your way up to longer holds over time.
2. Walking Heel to Toe
A simple in-home and low-impact exercise for balance is walking heel to toe. While standing, step with your right foot and place your heel directly at the front of your left toes (they should be touching). Repeat this process with slow, small steps, being careful to use the wall for balance if need be. This exercise can help build strength when completed on a regular basis and can help build balance that is critically important in senior fall prevention efforts.
One of the best ways to work on muscle strength and fall prevention is a simple sit-to-stand exercise. Making sure that you have a sturdy chair (and a friend or family member nearby to help if you need it), repeat the process of standing up slowly from your seat and sitting back down on the chair. The practice of slowly going from a seated position to a standing one improves your sense of balance and builds strength in the muscle groups you need to keep active.
4. Wall Pushups
A straightforward strength training exercise that you can easily perform in your house, wall pushups are exactly what they sound like; unlike the traditional pushups that require you to lift your body weight off of the ground, wall pushups are an excellent low-impact alternative. Both safer for older adults at risk of injury and less physically demanding, this exercise has health benefits, especially in building upper body strength. Standing along a blank stretch of wall, step an arm’s length away from the wall and reach both hands out to touch it. Your hands should be positioned shoulder-width apart, but slightly below shoulder height. Bend your elbows to lean into the wall, holding for a moment before pushing back to your original standing position. Make sure to keep the wall and floor around you clear of any clutter or obstacles to ensure your safety when exercising.
5. Wall Snow Angels
If you are prone to discomfort in your neck, back, or shoulders, wall snow angels are an easy way to build upper body strength while alleviating that tension. Begin by standing upright with your back touching the wall and your hands to your side, but angled out from your torso. From this posture, either sweep your arms up to touch one another above your head while keeping them taught against the wall or take a variation, beginning with your arms at a ninety-degree angle and raising them above your head to make a wide diamond shape.
6. Balancing Bicep Curls
If you have a light dumbbell weight (or even a water bottle) at home, then balancing bicep curls is an easy exercise to engage muscle groups in your upper and lower body and to build strength and balance together. Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart and a weight in your left hand. Then, slowly lift your right knee and hold the position before gently resting your right foot on the ground again. Repeat this process again with the weight in your right hand and lift your left knee. To build balance, picture your belly button tucking in to meet your back and keep your chest facing upwards to avoid any muscle strain in the upper body.
7. Chair Yoga
If you’re looking for exercises that you can do from a seated position, there are a range of chair yoga exercises that might benefit you. These chair exercises are more accessible versions of traditional yoga poses that you can do for a more gentle asana practice without having to stand up. Chair exercises are perfect for those with limited mobility or anyone looking to build core strength, balance, and flexibility. When practicing chair yoga, consider having a family member nearby for safety and make sure that you’re using a sturdy chair that won’t be affected when you shift positions.
8. Tai Chi
Several organizations recommend that seniors practice the mind and body exercise of Tai Chi. The practice itself has gained popularity due to its effectiveness, focusing on building strength and balance by connecting the body and mind. The practice has several health benefits for seniors, improving heart health and growing the body’s flexibility.
9. Water Aerobics
For older adults with chronic joint or muscle pain, or individuals with limited mobility, water aerobics can offer an easy way to stay active and safe. Simple exercises in a pool can build strength with the slight resistance that the water offers while avoiding any fall risk. While anyone considering a new exercise program should consult their doctor first, water exercise can also help with joint pain and arthritis, building muscle flexibility and strength.
10. Brisk Walking
If you are able to get out and stay active, going for regular brisk walks can help maintain overall physical health. Walking builds your endurance and walking at a brisk or moderate pace can help your aerobic system, making it easier for you to sustain an active body over time. Always make sure to stay safe while walking, ideally going with another person, going during the daytime, and going to a location that is away from heavy automobile traffic or other hazards.
- Pexels, Anna Shvetz