Regular exercise and physical activity are essential for staying healthy. As we age, it can become more challenging to exercise, particularly if we have a health condition or have sustained an injury. However, it’s imperative that seniors stay active in order to gain muscle strength, stay mobile, reduce the risk of falls, and maintain a good quality of life.
Regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, helps maintain a healthy weight, and even improves mental health and mood.
Simple At-Home Exercises for Seniors
Exercise doesn’t need to take place in the gym — there are exercises seniors can do at home to build strength, improve endurance, and support their overall health and wellbeing.
The tightrope stance — sometimes called the tandem stance — can improve balance and stability to reduce the risk of falls.
How to do it: Stand upright with your feet together, and strengthen your core (stomach & back). Step one foot in front of the other so the front foot’s heel is against your back foot’s toe. Keep your feet in a straight line (like you’re walking a tightrope) and hold this position for 30 seconds. Then, switch the positioning of your feet and hold for another 30 seconds. You can hold onto a chair or the wall for balance if needed.
Standing up from a chair without using your hands helps maintain muscle strength and mobility.
How to do it: Stand in front of a chair (approximately 6 inches) with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms held out straight in front of your shoulders. Slowly bend your knees and push your hips back to lower yourself into the chair in a seated position. Then, stand by placing your body weight on your heels. Try not to swing your torso or use your hands to stand up, but instead use your core and leg muscles. Repeat 10-15 times.
Shoulder rolls improve flexibility and range of motion, and help build strength in the shoulders and upper back, which can be helpful in living independently.
How to do it: This exercise can be completed in either a sitting or standing position. To begin, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, without hunching your back or protruding your neck. Once you shrug up, squeeze your shoulder blades together to pull the shoulders back. Pull the shoulders back down, slightly rounding your upper back to push your shoulders forward. Repeat 10-15 times.
Step ups improve balance and coordination while building muscle strength in the legs.
How to do it: Wearing supportive shoes, step up and down on the bottom step of a staircase. You don’t need to walk all the way up and down the stairs, unless you prefer to/feel safe doing so. Lead with a different foot for each step up to ensure you’re strengthening both sides of the body. Repeat 20-30 times on each side.
Toe lifts help strengthen legs and feet, and are an excellent way to improve your balance.
How to do it: Slowly lift on your toes as if you are standing in a tippy-toe position. Then, slowly lower your heels back down to the ground. You can hold on to the back of a chair with one or both hands to help keep your balance if needed. Repeat 20-30 times.
Wall push-ups build strength in the shoulders, arms, upper back, and chest.
How to do it: Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-length apart. Stand close enough so that you can stretch your arms out in front of you to touch the wall. Place both palms on the wall at shoulder height and width. Slowly bend your arms to bring your chest toward the wall, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Get as close to the wall as you comfortably can, then slowly press yourself back up to standing. Repeat 15-20 times.
Try doing these or similar exercises once a day for approximately 30 minutes a day. You don’t have to do them all at once — you can break these exercises into small segments throughout the day when you have time and the energy to do so. Mix up the exercises to keep it interesting, and play music to provide motivation and focus if you’d like.