According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), 28% of adults over 50 years old are physically inactive. This is a shame since regular physical activity is very important for seniors. When you regularly exercise, you:
- Maintain muscle mass
- Improve balance, flexibility, and posture
- Increase bone density
- Decrease depression
- Decrease pain
- Prevent falls
- Better control of chronic disease symptoms
The vast majority of chronic health conditions that limit mobility can be prevented or managed with a good exercise program. Also, as we age, weight gain is much more likely to occur since the body’s ability to quickly metabolize food is lower.
Fortunately, you don’t need to go to the gym or go through a really complex workout program to stay active. The trick is to keep moving so most exercises for seniors are simple. Obviously, in the event that you have to deal with some conditions that limit your mobility, heart problems or anything that could hinder your workouts, make sure you go to the doctor first!
Also, whenever possible, work with a personal trainer that has experience in working with senior clients. He/she can help you incorporate what you like in your workouts, from jump rope exercises to swimming.
While there are so many exercises for seniors that can be mentioned, here are some that are very simple, effective and perfect even for workout beginners.
Wall Snow Angel Exercise
You surely know how to make a snow angel in fresh snow. It is the kind of childhood memory that most children have. Now, as a senior, you can do the same thing but instead of lying on the snow, you use a wall:
- Position yourself with the back towards the wall, in a standing position. Make sure your lower back and head touch the wall as your spine sits in a natural position.
- Put the back of your hands on the wall, with your arms extended, parallel to the body.
- Start making a snow angel with your arms as the back of your hands stay touching the wall.
- Move your hands until they are over your head and then move back to the starting position. This is a single repetition.
Try to perform at least 10-12 repetitions for a set. As soon as a set is over, take a 1-2 minute break and repeat for a total of 3-4 sets.
Lateral Leg Raises
This simple move strengthens your legs and improves balance because of the use of stabilizer muscles. If you feel the exercise is too easy, add a resistance band to increase intensity. Also, you can use a wall or a chair to offer extra stability. Lateral leg raises can often be combined with other chair exercises for seniors who have limited mobility or even athletes recovering from an injury.
To perform lateral leg raises:
- Stand sideways to the chosen support (wall or chair).
- Put your weight on the right leg as you lift your left leg to the side. Keep your feet flexed (not relaxed). Both your feet, knees, and hips must stay aligned. Toes are facing the room.
- Lift your leg without torso tilt (control your torso and keep it in an upright position).
- Lift your leg a few inches. Do not lift more than the level at which you are comfortable so your body remains in proper form.
- Return your leg back to the floor then start again.
- Repeat for both legs. Aim for 12 repetitions each for 3-4 sets.
This is one of the easiest and simplest exercises you can do as a senior. It is actually a stretch but one that is offering much more relief than expected. The movement you do is really similar to when you shake the head to signal “NO”. You can perform this exercise while sitting or standing.
To perform head turns:
- Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and your back is straight.
- Turn the head slowly to the left. Do so until you feel your neck stretched (without serious pain).
- Hold the position a few seconds then revert back to the starting position and perform the same movement to the right.
- Repeat this movement as many times as comfortable, but aim for 10-12 times each side.
Keeping the neck mobile is really important for numerous day-to-day activities, like driving. This neck stretch can be done as many times as you want over the course of a day.
Sitting Knee Lifts
This exercise is a great idea since it does wonders for stability, balance and overall upper body endurance. Avoid the move’s upper body part if you have back problems. If you have ankle weights you can add this to your ankles for more resistance as you get stronger.
To perform the knee lifts:
- In a standing position, hold the medicine ball in both your hands, right over the head.
- Lift your left knee up to the level of the waist. At the same time, bring your arms down in front of you. Your goal is to touch the knee with the ball.
- Lower the left knee as you move the ball back to the initial position.
- Do the same movement with the right leg.
- Alternate sides and do repetitions for 30 or 60 seconds, based on comfort.
Some modifications to consider:
- You can make the exercise easier by removing the weight or just holding it at chest level while your knees are lifted.
- You can make the exercise harder by simply performing the moves faster. Just make sure that control is maintained and that you lift your knees as high as possible.
This bodyweight exercise is often seen in yoga practice and in injury recovery training. It is also really good for seniors as it strengthens abs, glutes and the lower back. If you cannot kneel, you can do the exercise while lying on the floor, face up and performing just the movements with your arms and legs.
To do bird dogs:
- Stay on hands and knees. Make sure your back is straight, abs are pulled in and your arms and legs form a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Slowly lift your left arm up until reaching body level. At the same time, lift your right leg until it is in line with your hand, parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower the arm and the leg.
- Repeat with the right arm and the left leg. Aim for around 12 repetitions.
If you have problems lifting the leg, do not force the movement. Focus on balance. It is better to not move your leg than to ruin the balance. In time, flexibility increases and you can do the exercise the intended way. If you feel particularly shaky, just move legs and arms separately.
These five beginner exercises for seniors are really easy but they are only some of the many that can be considered. Make sure that you perform exercises such as these every day you can to keep yourself active. If you do so, your entire life will be better and you should notice an increase in energy. Even if your mobility is limited, there are ways to exercise and stay active.