Wanting to remain healthy physically and mentally as you age? Try these simple exercises for seniors at home.

Physical activity is important during all stages of life — but especially as you get older. Losing some of your mobility and fitness as you age is natural. But staying active can slow that decline.

For older adults, regular exercise leads to a lower risk of:

  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Dementia.
  • Diabetes.
  • Falling, or getting seriously hurt in a fall.
  • Heart disease.
  • Several types of cancer.

Plus, exercise increases your quality of life and makes daily activities easier. The activities include the things you need to do every day, such as:

  • Cleaning your house.
  • Getting dressed.
  • Getting out of a chair.
  • Preparing meals.
  • Taking a shower.
  • Walking around.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that physical activity for seniors include aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance exercises.

Aerobic Exercises for Seniors

Aerobic exercise is a type of cardiovascular exercise. It elevates the heart rate and breathing rate while improving the body’s ability to use oxygen. Some great aerobic exercises include:

  • Bicycling.
  • Dancing.
  • Playing pickleball.
  • Raking leaves.
  • Swimming.
  • Walking the dog.

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Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors

To build strength, you’ll need some resistance training. It’s a good idea to do this kind of exercise at least twice a week. Muscle-building activities include:

  • Carrying groceries.
  • Exercises using resistance bands.
  • Lifting weights.
  • Planks.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Push-ups.

Balance Exercises for Seniors

Muscle-strengthening activities will improve your balance. There are also specific balance exercises you can do. Here are a couple to try:

Heel-to-toe walk

Raise your arms to the side. Place one foot in front of the other, with the heel of your front foot touching the toe of your back foot. Take a step, switching which foot is in front.

To stay balanced, keep your eyes on a fixed point in front of you. Repeat for 20 steps.

Single-leg stand

Start by holding onto a countertop or the back of a chair. Lift one leg slightly off the ground so that you’re balanced on one leg. To challenge yourself, let go of whatever you’re holding onto.

Hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

Simple Chair Exercises for Seniors

Even if you don’t have a fancy home gym, you probably already have one handy piece of exercise equipment: a chair. You can use a sturdy chair for all kinds of workout moves, including these:

Seated overhead press

Grab two weighted objects, such as dumbbells, filled water bottles, or cans of food. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Hold one object in each hand, palms facing forward and elbows bent.

Press your arms above your head, keeping a slight bend in the elbows as your arms extend. Slowly lower them back to your starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Side leg raise

Stand behind a chair, holding the back of it. Slowly lift one leg to the side as far as you can. Keep the leg you’re standing on slightly bent.

Lower your leg back down and repeat 15 times. Switch sides.

More Exercises for Seniors at Home

There’s so much you can do at home to stay physically fit. Try these exercises:

Ball squeeze

Grip strength is helpful for everything from opening jars to picking up a laundry basket. To improve yours, grab a tennis ball.

Squeeze it as hard as you can for about 5 seconds. Release slowly, then repeat 10 times before switching hands.

Wall push-up

If a push-up from the floor is too challenging, start with this variation. Stand facing a wall from just a bit more than an arm’s length away.

With your palms against the wall around chest height, slowly bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall. Then, push back until your arms are straight.

Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Shoulder stretch

Work on flexibility with the help of a dish towel. While standing up, hold one end of the towel in your right hand. Put your arm behind your head with your elbow facing off to the side.

Then, reach your left hand behind your lower back to grab the bottom of the towel. Pull the towel down until you feel a stretch in your right shoulder. As you become more flexible, your top elbow will point upward more.

Repeat on the other side.

Planks for seniors

The most effective ab exercise for seniors is the plank. Love ’em or hate ’em, planks are a great exercise for seniors who want to tone their entire core.

If you’re new to planking or just getting back into fitness, there are three levels of planks you can start with before you progress to floor planks:

  • Level 1 wall. This level is the easiest to start with and is great for people who have rotator cuff issues. This is because it puts the least amount of stress on shoulder stabilizers. Use the same form to progress to a counter or chair.
  • Level 2 kitchen counter. This level is appropriate for most people.
  • Level 3 couch/chair. Try this level if you master the counter level.

How to do a wall plank:

  • Step 1: Stand up straight facing a wall. Bend your elbows and place your forearms against the wall. Raise your elbows to shoulder height and point your forearms vertically up the wall.
  • Step 2: Lean onto your forearms, keeping your shoulders strong. Drive your elbows into the wall so that your shoulder blades don’t stick out.
  • Step 3: Keeping your body straight, walk your feet backward from the wall. Ensure your hips don’t push out behind you.
  • Step 4: Hold this position at the point where you can keep your body in line with your legs.

As you master the wall plank, progress to a kitchen counter and chair. Then you may find you’re ready for a floor plank.

How to do a floor plank:

  • Step 1: Lie on your stomach with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and forearms flat on the floor. Focus your eyes between your hands.
  • Step 2: Lift your hips toward the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from head to ankles.
  • Step 3: Try to use maximum total-body tension. This means squeezing your glutes, bracing your core, pulling your shoulder blades down and away from your ears, and tightening every muscle. Even though you’re squeezing your body, don’t hold your breath. Continue to breathe in and out.
  • Step 4: Hold for as long as you can with good form. Most experts suggest starting at five seconds and working up to 30 for each plank. As you progress, you can extend your plank for up to one or two minutes, but don’t go beyond that.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

“Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans." U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Link

“Workout to Go: A Sample Exercise Routine from the National Institute on Aging at NIH." National Institute on Aging. Link

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Seniors have different needs as they age, and they may want or need a community that can help with those needs. Whether you seek independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing and rehabilitation, UPMC Senior Communities has an option. We provide advanced treatments, preventive care, and wellness options from expert physicians, nurses, and staff. We also offer activities and living communities that can provide an enjoyable experience for our residents. Visit our UPMC Senior Communities website to learn more about the options available.