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Best Exercises and Fitness Tips for Elderly People

November 24th, 2021

No matter what age we are, movement is key for a healthy mind and body. Along with other healthy habits like a balanced diet, frequent movement improves both our physical and mental wellbeing. From seated exercises for seniors who are worried about falling to mobility exercises to an increased range of motion, there are many exercises and movement options for people in their senior years.

Interested in new ways to keep fit and stay healthy? We are going to take a look at some of the best exercises for seniors of different fitness levels and the benefits they have on physical and mental health.

Exercises for Seniors Looking to Stay Healthy

Exercise and physical activity is anything that gets you moving and raises your heart rate a little. Adults aged 65 and over are more likely to become sedentary due to health reasons but keeping active, within reason, is the best way to combat this. According to the NHS,  seniors should aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes a day. Don’t worry, it’s not time to dust the sprinting shoes off, instead, it’s time to look at some effective exercise to simply get your body moving. 

If you’re over the age of 65, you should avoid any exercise that is too strenuous and causes any pain. All exercises should feel comfortable when carried out. And remember, always seek advice from medical professionals before starting any new exercises.

Stretching, flexibility, and balance exercises for seniors 

Stretching and practising balance is a really convenient way to get moving, it can be done almost anywhere and all you need is your own body, so it requires no equipment. Stretching is great for increasing your mobility and by doing this you’re actively preventing injuries. It’s also great if you have a few aches and need to loosen the muscle. 

You can add a chest stretch by opening your arms so they are parallel to the floor and gently moving them in different directions and motions. To stretch your neck, simply sit or stand in an upright position and move your head from side to side then downwards and upwards until you feel a slight stretch before returning to a neutral position. If you’re looking to improve your balance you can try a range of exercises. Try standing on one leg, walking the length of a room from heel to toe, or walking in a sideways position. 

Chair exercises for seniors 

Seated exercises are a safe way to strengthen all parts of your body. You can actively work your legs, core, and arms whilst sitting down. Using a chair also provides stability so if you’re a bit wobbly on your feet or you have limited mobility there’s no risk of falling and hurting yourself. Some chair exercises for seniors include: 

Leg marching exercises

This movement gets the blood flowing by using the action of walking. In the seated position, simply march your legs up and down until you notice a slight elevation in your heart rate. You can rest for a few minutes and repeat again or simply do this a number of times throughout the day. 

Leg extensions 

For this exercise, simply lift one foot off the ground and extend it forward and outward. Put your foot down and repeat on the other foot, and then alternate between legs.

Upper body twists 

Keep your lower body planted to the floor and twist your upper body from side to side. This is a great exercise to develop core strength. Don’t twist too far, if you feel any pain at all stop the exercise.

Arm raises 

In the seated position, sit up straight and engage your core. Raise your arms out to the side so they are parallel with the floor and lower them back down. This is one rep. If you want to, you can also do this with two light objects to add a little more resistance. Try using two tins or anything else you have on hand.

Looking for some inspiration for your next chair workout? Why not try this chair workout by Joe Wicks, The Body Coach. He has a range of other exercise videos for older adults too. 

Strengthening exercises for seniors

Strengthening your muscles should be at the top of your list when it comes to keeping active, it’s not something just done by bodybuilders. This is because we naturally lose muscle as we age. It’s recommended to slowly build up and start with a short workout and then build up to two 30 minutes workouts a week. You can maintain and strengthen your muscles through a range of exercises, from bodyweight training to using light weights at home or in the gym. 

Tai-chi 

Tai-chi is a gentle form of exercise that focuses on slow movements and is completely self-paced. If performed correctly (we recommended attending a local club or group) it has been shown to prevent depression, stress, and anxiety and improve overall mood. Research on exercise and bone strength by the NHS also shows that Tai-chi increases bone density and strength, and also prevents the risk of osteoporosis. 

Equipment free, bodyweight exercises

There’s a range of bodyweight exercises for seniors, from wall push-ups to chair squats. Chair squats are perhaps the most functional exercise to enhance lower body strength, as it’s a movement we do all the time to pick things up from the floor and when we sit down and get back up.

Swimming 

Another wonderful exercise to choose from is swimming. Swimming at a steady pace will increase your aerobic capacity whilst strengthening your arm and leg muscles. It’s also a low impact exercise, so if you have knee problems or pain, it will take the pressure off whilst giving you a full-body workout.

Keeping active in day to day life 

Exercise doesn’t have to be complex. If you don’t want to do specific exercises then the best thing to do is keep active for as long as possible. This generally involves fitting movement into your daily routines and activities. For example, moving around your home, rather than simply sitting for most of the day, is considered to be light exercise. Some other ways to incorporate exercise and movement into your daily routine include: 

  • Going for a walk in the park with your family.
  • Getting outdoors and doing some gardening such as pushing the lawnmower. 
  • Looking after your grandchildren or the younger members of your family
  • Walking to and/or around the shopping centre.
older man doing yoga stretches

The Overall Benefits of Regular Exercise in Older Adults 

The benefits of exercising for all age groups are overwhelming. The obvious benefit of exercise is that it helps to maintain and control weight due to burning calories. Being overweight, especially in your senior years, can limit mobility and put increased pressure on the joints. If you’re struggling to get to sleep, it can also contribute towards a better nights sleep. However, research shows that exercise releases energy boosting endorphins so try not to exercise too close to bedtime. And one of the best benefits of all, exercise can be fun and social. If you find something you really enjoy like tai chi, swimming, or walking you can join a local club which is an opportunity to socialise and make new friends.

Research shows that people who regularly exercise are less likely to develop serious health conditions such as: 

  • Cancer 
  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke 
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Osteoporosis

Champion Movement and Exercise For Over 65s 

Remember, it is important to always seek advice from a medical professional before beginning any new exercises or movement plans. They will be able to assess your current health, taking into account any conditions you have, and make informed recommendations on the type of daily exercises you should be doing. 
At New Care Homes, we work with health professionals to ensure all of our residents are getting the right amount of movement each day. If you have any questions about the care services we offer, then please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help.