Physical activity is important during all stages of life — especially as you get older. It’s natural to lose some of your mobility and fitness as you age. But by staying active, you can slow that decline.
For older adults, exercise leads to a lower risk of:
- Heart disease.
- Several types of cancer.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Falling, or being seriously hurt in a fall.
Plus, exercise increases your quality of life and makes daily activities easier. This includes the things you need to do every day, such as:
- Taking a shower.
- Getting dressed.
- Getting out of a chair.
- Walking around.
- Cleaning your house.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that physical activity for seniors include a combination of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and balance exercises.
Aerobic Exercises for Seniors
Aerobic activity is also known as cardio. This is what gets your heart pumping. Some great aerobic exercises include:
- Walking the dog.
- Playing tennis.
- Raking leaves.
Muscle-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors
To build strength, you’ll need to do some resistance training. It’s a good idea to do this kind of exercise at least twice a week. Muscle-building activities include:
- Lifting weights.
- Carrying groceries.
- Exercises using resistance bands.
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Balance Exercises for Seniors
Just by doing muscle-strengthening activities, you’ll improve your balance. There are also specific balance exercises you can do. Here are a couple to try:
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.
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.
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 feet flat on the floor. Hold one object in each hand, with 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 back to the start position. Repeat 15 times.
Side Leg Raise
Stand behind a chair, holding the back of it. Begin to 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:
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.
If a push-up from the floor is too challenging, try this variation. Start by facing a wall, standing 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. Once you’re there, push back until your arms are straight.
Repeat 10 to 15 times.
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 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.
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About Senior Communities
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 have more than a dozen locations throughout western Pennsylvania, where seniors can live and get care. 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.