Staying active is essential for everyone, especially for seniors.
As you age, it becomes more challenging to carry out simple chores, or even do the strenuous exercises you used to do during your heydays.
Luckily, there are more favorable exercises for seniors. These can help you build muscles, balance, flexibility, and endurance.
Cognitive decline is one of the most common effects of aging. However, working out regularly can help you retain most of your cognitive functions at old age.
You may find yourself learning new stuff and even make critical decisions. Regular exercises also help ward off diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, and stroke.
You’ll also feel less depressed and even sleep better at night. Do not forget that exercising also helps you maintain a healthy weight, minimizing the risks of acquiring diseases related to obesity.
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Below are some of the best exercises for seniors at home.
Endurance Exercises for Seniors
Endurance exercises, also known as aerobics, are meant to increase your heart rate for a specific amount of time. Incorporating these exercises into your routine will significantly improve the health of your lungs, heart, and blood circulatory system. This goes a long way in keeping diabetes and heart diseases at bay. It’s important to note that some exercises may interfere with some treatments. So make sure you consult your physician before doing any activities. These exercises include;
Walking is one of the simplest yet very effective forms of exercise. You don’t need any special equipment. This exercise engages all the muscles in your body, ensuring blood circulation and healthier joints. If you’re not used to it, you can start with a 10 minutes’ walk, then improve gradually. If you’re up for it, you can begin jogging to make your heart pace faster. Walking helps reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and anxiety. For motivation, you can always accompany a friend and take a walk. Brisk walking is also gaining popularity. This is where you measure your steps per minute. With the help of an app, you can set targets and track your progress.
Whether you’ll be doing it alone, or with your family members, biking is an excellent way to stay active. Also, since it’s more vigorous than walking, you burn more calories, making it an efficient way to maintain a healthy weight, and reap other benefits of aerobic exercises. If you find it challenging to use the two-wheeled bicycle, you can try the tricycle or a stationary bike.
This is a great aerobic exercise, as well as a way to have fun as a senior. Just like walking and cycling, swimming engages significant muscles such as the abdominals, chest, hands, and leg muscles. You can set a target, or compete with a fellow swimmer.
Dancing helps you improve both physically and mentally. By trying to memorize the steps, you alleviate cognitive decline. Since dancing is often done in social centers, being around people helps reduce depression and improve your mood. As you practice the steps, you also burn some calories, maintain healthy joints, and tone every part of your body.
The elderly can achieve their exercise goals through other sports such as squash, golf, and tennis. Golf is an excellent exercise since it engages your brain, and you also do a lot of walking within the court. It also improves your core strength and arm strength. Squash is also a great full-body workout.
Strength Exercises for Seniors
Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders; the elderly can do it too. These exercises ensure that you have enough strength to go about your daily activities. They also help avoid falling injuries. You can do body-weight exercises or use weights and other gym equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or an exercise ball. Below are some activities you can do to build body strength.
You can use a chair for this exercise, but you don’t have to. This exercise strengthens your things, glutes, and hips.
- When using a chair, stand upright with the chair behind you. Your legs should be slightly apart.
- With your feet standing firm on the ground, push your hips back as if you’re attempting to sit on the chair.
- Once you touch the chair, hold the position for a few seconds, and then push yourself back up.
- If you’re not using a chair, push your hips back until they form a right angle at your knees. Make sure your knees don’t bend in front of your toes. Your hands should be held horizontally as you do this exercise.
- Once the hips are at a right angle, maintain the position push yourself back up.
- Repeat the exercise for 8 to 12 reps then take a break. Once your body gets used to the routine, you can do 3 to 4 sets to achieve better results.
This exercise is vital since it enables you to lift heavy objects around the house with ease. You can do it when standing or while sitting down.
- Choose a weight that you’re comfortable with, then hold it with your palms facing up. Ensure that you tuck in your elbows to prevent them from moving around.
- Raise the weight towards your chest, or towards your shoulder, depending on the weight you’re using. Hold the position for a few seconds.
- Lower your hands slowly without moving your elbows.
- Do two to three sets, 10 to 12 reps in each set. You can start with one set, and then gradually increase as you get the hang of it.
This is yet another excellent body-weight workout. Push-ups strengthen your core, glutes, chest, and your arms. As you age, it may be challenging to do them from the ground, but as you build your strength, they become more manageable. Wall push-ups are also a more comfortable alternative, especially for seniors. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand some distance away from the wall. The gap should be at least equal to the length of your arm.
- Place your palms flat against the walls.
- Don’t let your elbows face outside that much. They should be inclined to your sides.
- Push yourself towards the wall until your face almost touches the wall, then push away by straightening your arms.
Another favorable push-up for seniors is the knee-bent push-up. Your knees remain on the ground, and your lift your upper body. To make it slightly challenging, you can tuck your heels, and keep them off the ground as you do the push-ups.
The good thing about weight lifting is that it enables you to work on specific muscles at a time. However, make sure that you don’t work on the same group of muscles for two consecutive days. You can always consult a trainer on the best way to lift specific weights for better results without hurting yourself. You get to build shoulder strength, biceps, triceps, core, body posture, and lower-body strength.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
Poor balance is one of the leading causes of falls among seniors. It’s caused by many factors, including weakening hips, dizziness from medication, weakening eyesight, and poor posture. The exercises explained above strengthen most parts of your body, but practicing balance can help prevent further injuries as you conduct daily activities. Below are examples of balance exercises a senior can do.
Leg lifts can help you strengthen your legs and improve your balance. Just stand next to a sturdy chair, hold the backrest of the chair with one hand, stand upright, then lift your leg sideways and lower it slowly. You can do 12 reps of this, 2 to three sets. To increase the intensity of this exercise, you can tie a resistance band around your ankle.
Toe and Chair Stands
These are simple exercises that you can do with just a chair. For the chair stand, use an armless chair. Just like you would do with the squats, but this time sit comfortably on the chair and stretch your arms horizontally. Slowly lift yourself from the chair, and then sit. Repeat this exercise as many times as you can.
For the toe stand, stand behind your chair and keep your body upright. Supporting yourself with the chair, stand on your toes, hold the position for some seconds, and then rest with your heels flat on the ground. You can do two to three sets of 10 reps in each daily.
Rock the boat
This is a simple balance exercise that involves shifting your weight to one foot at a time. To do it effectively, stand upright, with your feet apart. Then slowly lift one leg, moving your body weight to the other foot, maintain the position for 30 seconds, then lower the leg. Repeat the same for the other leg. You can do this as many times as you can, increasing the reps gradually as you get used to the exercise.
Heel to Toe Walking
This exercise improves your balance when walking. You do it by walking on your heels, then on your toes, shifting your weight on both while your arms are stretched sideways. Twenty such steps are a good start, and you can increase them gradually.
Flexibility Exercises for Seniors
Stretching exercises not only keep fit, but they also help improve balance and relieve muscle and joint pain. They also help you maintain a proper posture to avoid falls and making it easier to handle various basic chores on your own. Below are some flexibility exercises you can do.
Calves tend to get very stiff over time. This may be as a result of sitting for extended periods, or even due to aging.
Due to this stiffness, you may start experiencing painful ankles, knee pains, and schin splints. It’s difficult to do other exercises such as squats when undergoing this kind of pain.
Incorporating the following stretches can significantly improve your mobility, flexibility, and overall balance.
- Downward dog – This is mainly a yoga pose, and it does wonders by engaging several parts of your body, including your arms, hips, core, and your neck. You start in a plank position where your hands are straight and firm on the ground. Then, with your arms tight on the ground, move your feet from the plank/push-p position towards your hands. This shifts your weight towards your hands as you form an inverted “V.” To get a deeper stretcher, push your heels towards the ground, bending the knees can help you too.
- Stretching with a resistance band – Sit on the floor and tie the resistance band on one foot. Using your hands, pull the toes towards you, stretching the calves. You can repeat this process for the other leg.
- Lunges – Lunges are also great at stretching calves. You can do them against the wall, or when standing freely. When standing against a wall, place your palms against the wall and push your one leg back while it’s straight, and bend the front leg. Ensure that the leg both heels are flat on the ground. Increase the distance between the two feet for a deeper stretch. Hold the stretch for some time, shifting the angle for maximum results, and then switch the legs.
- Bent-Over Stretch – This exercise helps relieve ankle pains. Stand with one foot forward. Bend the knee of the back leg, and hold the front leg by the toes. Gently pull upwards until you feel a stretch, then switch legs.
Several other stretches can open up different parts of the body. They include;
- Overhead reach stretches
- Shoulder stretch
- Upper back stretch
- Arm raises
- Hamstring stretches
- Standing quadriceps stretch
If you were active physically when you were young, you could still be in old age. If you were not that active, it’s never too late to start. Even though some chronic illnesses are inevitable as you age, exercises can delay them, or also prevent them altogether. To maintain health, you need to engage in all the four types of workouts; strength building, endurance, flexibility, and balance exercises. It’s important to remember that before engaging in any vigorous exercise, you need to warm-up. Starting exercises when your muscles are “cold” may lead to injuries. Also, after a workout session, carry out a cool-down activity such as walking around the house to help your muscles cool down. If under medication, don’t hesitate to consult your physician on the best exercises that you should do.