15 Of The Absolute Best Exercises And Stretches For Seniors
Are you ready to take back control of your health? While our bodies may not be what they used to be, there are still plenty of senior exercise programs we can incorporate into our daily routines to help us feel young again. Here’s what you can do to improve your mind and body.
Senior Exercise - Why It’s So Important
Whether you’re a gym enthusiast or a first timer looking to take back your health, it’s important to understand just how beneficial exercising during your senior years truly is. According to modern research, some of the key benefits to regular workout routines include:
Improved Healing & Disease Prevention - Studies have shown that seniors who incorporate exercise into their regular routine have decreased the amount of time it takes for wounds to heal by around 25%. The benefits don’t stop there either, working out can help you fight infection and recover from illness more quickly as well. The National Institute of Aging cites exercise as an effective measure to fight disease and chronic conditions. By working out routinely, you may be able to delay, or even prevent diseases like diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Better Balance & Stability - As you may already know, your balance and stability begin to decline as you enter your golden years, which puts you at risk of falling. As it stands today, falls are the leading cause of injury among American seniors. Injuries aren’t just painful, but can severely limit your mobility in the long run.
Improving Quality Of Life - Exercising does more than just keeping you in shape, it also increases your mental state as well. Studies have proven that exercise, at any age, provides numerous psychological benefits including fighting depression and improving your mood.
How Often You Should Work Out
If you want to enjoy all the benefits of exercise, you may be pleasantly surprised with how much time you need to dedicate to your new, healthier lifestyle. Experts recommend you should get a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week, which only amounts to about 30 minutes Monday through Friday. If you want to cut that time in half, try getting 1.25 hours of more intense exercise each week, like jogging.
Aerobics and cardiovascular workout routines are great, but it’s also a good idea to incorporate some additional strength training as well. As we’re about to touch on, balance, chair, or core exercises can be incorporated daily as they aren’t too hard on the body.
Balance Exercise For Seniors
Your balance is crucial to your health as a senior. As we mentioned above, falls are the number one cause of injury among seniors. Luckily, there are ways to help prevent yourself from becoming a victim, and it starts with working on your balance. Here are the top 5 balance exercises for seniors in 2019.
The tightrope walk is a must know for seniors, but should always be performed with supervision. With numerous benefits, including boosting balance, core strength, and even your posture, it’s fairly simple to do. All you need to do is place a rope, string, or even a wire flat on the ground in a straight line.
Next, which you can probably guess from the name, you walk in a straight line without stepping off onto the ground. If you’re having trouble finding your balance, try stretching your arms out as wide as you can, which experts say can help center you.
To maximize the benefits of this exercise, you’ll want to start by finding your favorite wall, preferably one that is barren of anything that could potentially fall. Next, you’ll position yourself about arm’s length from the wall, placing your palms right up against it. Make sure your palms are flat, and that you are distributing the weight evenly among both arms.
Keeping your feet planted on the ground, lean forward slowly, bringing yourself closer to the wall. Make sure your feet don’t move during this entire balancing exercise. Once you are up close to the wall, push yourself back, slowly, until you are again at arm's length from the wall.
This is another one where you’ll want to make sure you have supervision, and position yourself next to a chair, wall, door frame, or anything else you can use for support. With straight posture, lift one of your legs so that you are only standing on the other leg, just like a flamingo.
When lifting your leg, make sure you are maintaining the correct posture. That means your back should be straight with your shoulders back, and your head should be looking straight ahead. Make sure to repeat for both legs, and eventually, you’ll want to reach one arm towards your stretched leg.
Back Leg Raise
The back leg raise exercise is similar to the flamingo stand, but there is a key difference. Situate yourself behind a chair or any item you can rest your weight on. From there, you’ll want to raise one of your legs behind you, while your other leg carries the rest of your weight. Keep your leg raised for a few seconds before bringing it back down. Repeat with your other leg.
The goal is to not bend the knees while you’re performing this exercise. By adding the back leg raise to your senior-friendly exercise routine, you’ll build up your balance, strength, endurance, and also help improve your lower back.
Heel raises are a great exercise to incorporate into your workout routine as they strengthen both ankle and knee joints, which both can result in a greater balance for you in your senior years. Luckily for you, there is a beginner, intermediate, and advanced approach, where you can choose to start off by sitting, standing with support help, or standing on your own (even adding weights).
Regardless of the position you choose to start with, you’re going to want to have your feet spread about 6 to 8 inches apart, keep them flat on the floor and parallel to each other. Next, you’ll want to maintain a good posture, which means keeping your back straight and shoulders pulled back.
You’ll want to lift your heels, moving your body weight to the balls of your feet. Hold that position for just a second before lowering your heels back to your starting position. It’s recommended to shoot for 2 to 3 different sets of about 10 to 15 repetitions.
Chair Exercise For Seniors
If you’re like most people, the idea of getting to work out from the comfort of a chair sounds ideal. While seated senior workouts may seem too good to be true, they’re actually not! You can enjoy the many benefits of staying active with these 5 amazing chair workouts.
Ankle & Wrist Rolls
We’re going to kick off our senior chair workouts with something pretty simple that should be viewed as more of a warm up before you get started with your regular workout program. For the ankle and wrist rolls, you’ll want to sit up in your chair, keeping a perfect posture, making sure your back isn’t leaning against, or even touching the back of your chair.
Before you begin to roll your wrists, make sure to get the blood flowing by opening and closing your fist. When you feel ready, make sure to make a fist and begin rolling your wrists. Make sure to get a solid 10 rotations in for each direction.
You’ll want to perform the exact same movements with your feet and ankles as well. Make sure to flex your toes to get the blood flowing. You should also try pointing your feet independently of one another, before starting to roll each ankle. When you feel ready, roll one ankle at a time at least 10 rotations in each direction.
The ankle and wrist rolls are perfect if you have poor circulation, which will eventually cause challenges with balance and mobility.
Sit & Stands
As we enter our senior years, the simple task of standing up, or getting out of your chair becomes a challenge we’re not used to. This especially rings true when you consider low chairs or soft couches. The sitting and standing exercise is a perfect way to maintain your independence while improving leg strength, balance, and even body control.
To start this exercise, find a stable chair, and plant your feet on the floor, hip-distance apart. If you’re struggling, it’s ok to use your arms or hands for some extra leverage, but ideally, you’ll engage your core, and lean forward with your hips without using any extra assistance. Make sure to utilize all four corners of your feet to extend your knees and hips completely.
Next, make sure to press your hips back while bending your knees to reverse your movement. Slowly and carefully lower yourself back into your seated position.
Seated Hip Marches
Hip replacement procedures are becoming all too common among American seniors. By leveraging the exercises and stretches like seated hip marches, you’ll be able to work on the mobility and flexibility of your hips, which can help you avoid surgery in the future.
To get started, make sure to get yourself situated in your chair with good posture by sitting as tall as you can while keeping your back straight. Place your feet on the ground about hip-distance apart, and get a good grip onto the side of your chair while engaging your abdominal muscles.
Keeping your knee bent, raise your first leg as high as you comfortably can. Slowly bring your leg back down until it’s flat on the floor, and then repeat the motion with your second leg. It’s a good idea to try and get at least 20 repetitions before taking a break. Aim for somewhere between 2 to 3 sets.
Seated Shoulder Press
As we’ve already touched on, everyday activities, like putting items away on a shelf, get increasingly more difficult as we get older. Exercises and stretches that incorporate strength training, like the seated shoulder press, are a great way to improve flexibility and mobility while helping you perform daily activities.
Start as you would with every other senior chair exercise, seated in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the ground. However, this time you’ll want to keep your feet shoulder-width apart instead of hip-distance. You can perform the seated shoulder press with or without weights, but for our example, let’s assume you’re using lightweight dumbbells.
Get a good grip of your dumbbells in each hand and hold them at your shoulder with your elbows bent and palms facing away from you. Raise your arms straight up over your head while extending your elbows. Slowly, and carefully bring your arms back down to your shoulders. Repeat about 12 times, and remember, the form is extremely important on this one.
Seated Torso Twist###
Rounding out our list of the best senior chair workouts, we have an exercise that will work wonders for your core and spinal mobility, the seated torso twist. This exercise is particularly great for your obliques and is perfect for people of all levels.
Keeping your back straight, sit up tall in your chair, with your feet firmly on the ground about hip-distance apart. Remember, it’s important that you are not leaning back on the chair. Raise your hands and arms, interlocking your fingers behind your head. At this point, your elbows should be bent and pointing away from you.
Keeping your pelvis steady, begin to twist your torso to your right or left. Try and twist as far as comfortably possible. Take a deep breath and then bring your torso back to its center, and repeat the same thing the opposite way. Try to do 2 sets of 6 to 8 repetitions.
Stretching Exercise For Seniors
Stretching exercises for seniors are an easy way to improve mobility and flexibility. By stretching, you’re being proactive in maintaining your health, and working towards preventing injuries that are all too common among seniors. Since so many people overlook the powerful benefits of stretching, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best stretching exercises for seniors.
Calf tightness is a problem that most people are unaware they are suffering from. If you feel like it’s becoming more difficult to squat down, maintain balance, or overall tightness in your calf, this calf stretch is the perfect addition to your workout routine.
To start, find an empty wall in your house with enough room for you to stand over an arm’s reach away. Face the wall, and rest your hands firmly against it, keeping your palms flat. Then, you’ll want to keep one leg in front of you with your knee bent, while stretching your other leg behind you with your knee straight.
Keeping your feet flat, with both heels touching the ground, lean towards the wall. Lean in slowly and carefully until you can feel yourself stretching the back of your lower leg and front of the hip. Try and hold for 25 to 30 seconds, and then repeat for the other leg. Try to get in 2 to 3 repetitions of this workout.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
The seated hamstring stretch, as you can probably guess from the name, will require the use of a sturdy chair or bench. Sit down, and get yourself situated with a good posture, keeping your back straight. You can hold on to the chair or bench if you need some extra leverage.
With your hips facing forward and one foot flat on the ground, keep your other leg straight and bring it up in front of you. Keeping your back straight, carefully and slowly lean forward from your hips. You should start feeling a stretch in the back of your leg. Once you feel that stretch, hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other leg. Try and get in 2 to 3 reps.
It’s important to incorporate chest stretches into your workout routine, as it’s an important muscle group that we tend to neglect. This stretch will require the use of either a wall or countertop that comes waist high.
Once you are situated in front of your support wall or countertop, make sure to situate yourself far enough away so that you can transfer your weight to your heels. Keeping your hips slightly bent behind your feet, stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Hold for about 15 seconds, and you’ll want to repeat this motion about 2 to 3 times.
Shoulder & Upper Back Stretch
This stretch is perfect for anyone who is experiencing a stiff back that is keeping you from standing up straight. Over the years, especially those of us who sat at a desk for most of our lives, our bad posture will end up causing our shoulders and back to round forward. This shoulder and upper back stretch is a perfect way to improve the flexibility of your spine, and will also help build strength.
You’ll want to start by standing up as tall and as straight as you can and keep your arms down by your side. Next, reach your hands behind your back, and lock your fingers together. When doing this, make sure to pull your shoulders back as well.
Once you feel a stretch, don’t pull back any further. If you don’t feel a stretch, feel free to push your interlocking hands away from your lower back, and begin to arc backward. Hold for a couple of moments, and then return to standing straight. Repeat this motion about 6-8 times for about 2 to 3 repetitions.
Neck Side Stretch
We’re going to finish up the list of the best exercises and stretches for senior with an easy one, the neck side stretch. It’s perfect to do first thing in the morning or at any time you have a few moments throughout your day. It both loosens tension in your shoulders and neck, which many of us may get from sleeping in the wrong position.
To start, it’s best to get yourself situated in a stable chair sitting straight up. From there, slowly started tilting your head to one side, and then to the other. This is the warm-up portion.
Once you feel like you are ready to move on, lift your arm straight up over your head, and place your palm gently on the opposite side of your head. Use your outstretched arm and palm to gently pull your head. You’ll begin to feel a stretch, and as soon as you do, hold for about 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the same motion on the other side, and try to get in 2 to 3 repetitions.
There you have it! You know have a complete list of 15 exercises and stretches to incorporate into your daily routine. Setting aside just 20 minutes a few times a week can work wonders for your health and your quality of life during your golden years.