It’s not breaking news that regular exercise and physical activity are good for everyone, but staying active is even more important for seniors because it promotes better physical and mental health which helps you maintain your independence as you age.
The key is to find a variety of exercises that will help you continue to perform activities of daily living and boost your quality of life. There are also copious benefits for seniors who choose to workout regularly.
The Best Exercises for Seniors and Older Adults
Here are some examples of exercises you can incorporate into a workout. Remember to pace yourself and don’t push your limits. Start slowly and work your way to more repetitions and increased difficulty.
Benefit: This functional exercise helps strengthen the entire lower body and core to help you take stairs, bend to pick things up and get out of a chair more easily.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart in front of a chair. Keep your chest upright, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body toward the chair. Either touch your butt to the chair or sit down on it. At the bottom of the squat, your upper body should be leaning slightly forward. Pause, then push through your feet and squeeze your glutes to return to start. During squats, keep your weight mostly over you heels and mid-feet to prevent putting too much pressure on the knees.
Benefit: This exercise will improve your upper body strength and is easy to modify to fit your ability level.
How to do it: Stand about two feet from the wall (move closer to make it easier) and raise your hands to the wall, straight out from your shoulders. Keeping your body straight, bend your elbows diagonally as you bring your chest closer to the wall. Allow your heels to lift off the floor pause, then slowly press into your hands to bring your arms straight and return to the starting position.
Benefits: This low impact exercise builds core strength and stability.
How to do it: Sit in a chair and place a ball in front of both feet. This can be any kind of small ball or some other household object.
Lift your right foot and tap the top of the ball and then move it back down to the floor. Switch sides and do the same with your left foot. Remember to keep your back straight and stomach muscles tight. You can increase the difficulty by placing your hands behind your head.
Benefit: This is a simple exercise that targets upper body muscles and increases grip strength.
How to do it: If you have some light free weights those are a good way to get started. If not, you can substitute anything that’s easy to grip. Stand or sit with your back straight and arms by your sides, palms facing forward. Raise both arms at the same time toward your shoulders and slowly lower the hands back down. The key is to do the movement slowly to build resistance.
Benefit: Increases shoulder and upper arm mobility making it easier to reach objects and perform other activities of daily living.
How to do it: Hold a towel in one hand above your head and let it drop behind you. Grab the end of the towel and pull down gently until you feel a stretch. Hold for about a minute then switch arms and repeat the stretch. Be aware of how it feels and where there’s any tightness and adjust the angle and intensity.
Keys to Sticking to an Exercise Program Over the Long Run
Once you’ve started exercising regularly, it’s not uncommon to get bored, overly sore, or just not like to do it after a while. Here are a few tips to keep things fresh and make sure exercise remains part of your routine.
Have fun – It’s easier to stick with an exercise routine if it’s something you like. If you prefer walking outside but it gets too cold in the Fall, switch to an indoor track or even the mall. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things. For example, former tennis players may gravitate toward pickleball.
Use the buddy system – Workout partners keep you accountable for showing up and can add friendly competition to your exercise sessions. Group classes are also a great way to feel better about your routine and get expert guidance from an instructor.
Listen to your body – Sore muscles are a reality for anyone who works out. However, if you’re feeling uncomfortably sore or really fatigued, shorten your workout and avoid exercises that aggravate certain muscles or joints.
Don’t overdo it – Getting into a new sport or workout routine can spark a lot of enthusiasm. But it’s important to take it slowly so you don’t get worn out or unreasonably discouraged with lack of progress. Ease into things and you’ll see better results which will motivate you to continue.
Set achievable goals – Use short-term goals such as working your way up to a certain number of reps or attending group class for a month. Having a goal also makes it easier to track your progress, then you can look forward to achieving more milestones.
Blakeford Senior Life offers a comprehensive wellness program that features many different types of activities to keep seniors moving. To learn more about all the amenities available at our senior independent and assisted living community on our Green Hills Campus or in a family home for those aging in place contact us today!