The 4 Best Exercises for Seniors
The benefits of exercise on our health can’t be denied and this goes for people of all ages, including seniors. Evidence has linked exercise to:
- Lower risk of disease, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer
- Lower stress levels
- Reduced risk of depression and anxiety
- Better endurance
- Improved strength
- Increased energy levels
- Stronger immune system
- Improved sleep
Along with these health benefits, research has shown that older adults can greatly improve their quality of life and live independently longer with regular exercise because of:
- Reduced pain and stiffness
- Better balance
- Improved mobility
- Stronger bones and a lower risk of osteoporosis and fractures
Even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life, it’s never too late to start exercising and reaping the rewards that being active has to offer.
The Best Exercises for Seniors
The National Institute on Aging recommends incorporating exercises that fall into four categories: endurance, balance, strength and flexibility. Each type of exercise has its own benefits, which when combined, can help you get the most benefits in your day-to-day life and reduce the risk of injury.
Endurance activities, also referred to as aerobic exercise, keep your heart and lungs healthy by increasing your heart rate and breathing and improving circulation. When you engage in these types of activities, you increase your endurance and make many of your daily activities easier to do. Exercises that fall into this category include:
- Brisk walking or running
- Cycling (road or stationary bicycles)
Strengthening exercises help make your muscles stronger, which can help relieve pain and stiffness, strengthen your bones and even help you maintain a healthier weight by boosting your metabolism. In terms of your everyday activities, regular strength training can make it easier for you to carry things or climb stairs. Most senior’s and community centers offer strength training classes for seniors. You can also increase your strength by lifting light weights or using resistance bands. Some exercises use your body weight for resistance, such as:
- Push-ups. If you’re able, you can do traditional push-ups on the floor—doing them while keeping your knees on the floor can make them easier if needed. You can also do standing push-ups, which mimic traditional push-ups but are performed standing a few inches from a wall with your feet knees-width apart and the palms of your hands flat on the wall in front of you. Lean toward the wall by pushing against your hands and then pushing away from the wall. Repeat.
- Toe stands. Stand behind a chair and hold onto the chair’s back for balance, then stand up on your tiptoes and hold for a couple of seconds before putting your feet flat on the floor again. Repeat 10 to 15 times, rest and then do another 10 to 15.
The risk of falls is something many of us worry about as we age. Simple balance exercises can minimize your risk of falling while also improving your posture. You can improve your balance with some simple moves, such as:
- Standing on one foot. Do this near a wall or chair for support if you need it.
- Walking heel-to-toe. Place your heel directly in front of the toes of your other foot as you walk, as if walking a line.
- Tai Chi. This exercise can also improve balance. Check your local recreation center or senior’s center for group classes.
Stretching or flexibility exercises are an important part of your fitness regime. Stretching before and after activity can help reduce the risk of injury from exercise, as well as improve your flexibility, making most of your day-to-day chores easier.
You can find stretching exercise classes geared to seniors at most gyms, recreation centers and community centers. There are also many simple stretching exercises that you can do at home, such as:
- Touching your toes. You can do this while sitting or standing by reaching your hands toward your toes and holding for a few seconds when you begin to feel the stretch.
- Reaching for the sky. Simply raise your hands up toward the sky as high as you can and hold the stretch for a few seconds.
- Back stretch. Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and slowly turn your upper body to the side moving only from the waist up. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then do the same turning to the opposite side.