It's no surprise that physical activity is an important ingredient in living a long life, but the way you move will likely change as you age. Luckily, older adults can enjoy everything from cardio to strength training routines, so long as the right precautions are taken.
And you don't have to enlist the help of a personal trainer to see some lasting results, although that may be helpful to some.
Before breaking down some of the best exercise options for seniors and some YouTube channels to check out, let’s explore a few of the health benefits of moving your body well into your later years.
The health benefits of beginning (and maintaining) an exercise program goes beyond just gaining muscle mass and body strength. While the benefits we are going to list aren't unique to older people, they become especially important as we age and should be considered.
While it may seem counterintuitive, exerting energy through exercise actually makes you more energized and give you a better quality of life. The release of endorphins supports your mood and liveliness, and the exercise promotes better sleep, so you're well-rested each day.
More Coordination and Independence
Whether you engage in water aerobics, pilates or walking, you build strength, stamina and stability. Improved coordination that you learn in your balance exercises translates into your everyday life, too. This can help prevent falls and make you feel more independent in your daily tasks.
Disease and Illness Prevention
Osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and depression are common in senior years. With regular exercise, you can increase the prevention of these and more. If you do encounter illness or disease, you will also be more likely to fight it off and have minimized symptoms.
Heightened Brain Function
More and more research is proving the link between overall mind and body wellness. When you move your body, you are simultaneously strengthening your mind —winning all around. There are also studies showing the link of exercise to Alzheimer's prevention.
A consistent exercise routine, specifically something that gets your heart rate up, is a great way to keep up with your cardiovascular health. Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
Variety and Fun
Some of the activities you did in your younger years may no longer be an option, so having different ways to exercise can offer variety and fun in your daily life.
Okay, let's get to it. Here are the best exercises for seniors separated by type of workout or equipment.
Water aerobics is a perfect exercise class for seniors as it allows movement in a low-impact way. The water acts as a nice cushion while also providing some resistance, so there is muscle gain without putting stress on joints. If classes aren’t running because of COVID, you can still get some exercise on your own with these three moves:
Stand in water and start to march in place. If comfortable, begin to jog forward across the pool.
Lean into your hands or arms on the edge of a pool or kick board until your feet are floating in the water. With straight legs, engage your core and begin to kick.
Place your hands on the pool's edge about shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows, drawing your chest to the edge of the pool. Then extend your arms fully, making sure to keep your back straight. To make this more challenging, walk your feet back away from the edge. Repeat.
As Meg shows us through her AIM Fitness channel, designed to keep seniors moving throughout the pandemic, dumbbells offer a great way to build strength, coordination and balance. The weight can be completely customizable to your needs and ability too. Don't be afraid to start with lighter weights and slowly build up your limit.
Start either seated or standing with a dumbbell in each hand. Bring your arms into a goal post position (elbows out to the sides at shoulder height, 90-degree angle, forearms vertical). Press dumbbells straight up to the ceiling as you draw your arms close to your ears. Slowly lower back to the goal post position. Repeat.
Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms down, palms facing your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and arms extended as you slowly raise your dumbbells forward and up to shoulder height. Slowly lower and return to the starting position. Repeat.
Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, arms down by your sides. Walk with the weights at a pace that feels comfortable. To add a greater challenge, only hold a dumbbell in one hand so that you engage your core and build up more balance with the offset load.
Want a good workout without all the fancy equipment? There are many ways to build strength and stability with your bodyweight alone.
Find a sturdy chair and sit on the front edge so your feet are firmly planted on the ground. Without using your hands, stand up from the chair. Then slowly sit back down to the chair. Repeat.
Using a staircase or exercise step, place one foot on the ground and the other on the step. Press down into the heel of the foot on the step and step up, so your back foot lands on the step too. Slowly lower your foot back to the floor. Repeat.
Lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest your arms down by your sides. Press into your feet as you lift your hips up to the sky. Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor. Repeat.
Get outside, find a local walking trail, or hop on your treadmill. Choose a brisk pace and adjust your route to include hills if you want a greater challenge.
Resistance Band Exercises
Bands are a fun variation that add resistance and variety to your workouts. Like you would with traditional weights, you can target specific muscle groups in the upper body or lower body.
Curtis Adams specializes on up-beat senior workout videos to keep fitness fun.
Bent Over Rows
Place the center of the band under one foot while holding the two sides of the band, one in each hand. Hinge at your hips, so your spine is long, but you're leaning forward. With your hands on the band, bend your elbows to the sky, keeping them close to your torso. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Slowly extend your arms back down. Repeat.
Stand tall with the center of the band underneath one or both feet. Hold the two ends of the band, one in each hand, with arms extended by your sides and palms facing away from you. Keep your elbows by your sides as you slowly bend them and draw your hands to your shoulders. Slowly lower back down to starting position. Repeat.
Stand tall while holding on to the band with both hands, about shoulder-width apart. Draw your arms and the band up to shoulder height, arms extended straight forward. Without shrugging your shoulders, try to pull the band apart, pressing your arms out to the sides while keeping your arms extended. Slowly draw your hands back into the starting position. Repeat.
Now Get Moving!
There you have it! 13 exercises to build strength, balance, coordination and energy.
Be sure to check with your healthcare professional before beginning any new fitness program, especially if you have other chronic conditions. But we are confident that with a little intentionality, you are a few steps away from enjoying a more healthy, vibrant life.
You might also be interested in: 20 Incredible Senior Discounts You Need To Take Advantage Of Now
Best Exercises For Seniors:
- Jogging in Water
- Flutter Kicks
- Pool Wall Push-Ups
- Overhead Press
- Front Raise
- Farmer's Walk
- Chair Squat
- Step Up
- Hip Bridge
- Bent Over Rows
- Bicep Curl
- Band Pull-Apart