Exercise is an important part of everyone’s health. We’re told and advised time and time again of its value and benefits. Most of us know this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to follow through with it. We find ourselves busy and tired and tend to prioritize really anything else that comes up. However, as we age, a daily routine that includes exercise becomes increasingly more important.
Here you will find information on:
- How frequently should seniors exercise?
- Equipment free exercises to improve strength
- Equipment free exercises to improve balance
- Exercises seniors should avoid
How Many Days a Week Should Seniors Exercise?
Seniors age 65 and older should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week, which translates to roughly 20 minutes per day. In addition, strength training is recommended at least 2 days a week. While this may seem overwhelming, we’re not talking about having to drop everything and head to the gym for a strenuous session. There is plenty our loved ones can do from home and still reap the numerous benefits exercise brings. Some of these benefits include:
- Improving strength
- Improving balance
- Giving us more energy
- Preventing or delaying diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis.
- Improving mood and fighting off depression
- Potentially improving cognitive function
And many more!
Exercises to Improve Strength in Seniors
Exercises that help improve strength also help our loved ones stay independent. Stronger muscles can help seniors to continue to do all the things they need to do in their day to day lives. Try some of these at home:
Stand in front of a chair with your feet at hip widths distance. Stretch out both arms, palms down, in front of you parallel to each other, no higher than shoulder height. Bend your knees while keeping your shoulders and chest upright as you lower your bottom, so that you end up sitting down. Push your body back up to return to a standing position. If possible, try to keep your arms out in front of you. For an extra safety measure, put the chair against a wall so it can’t slip back.
Stand in front of a sturdy wall – the closer you are, the easier the exercise will be. Place both hands up against the wall in front of you so that they are in line with your shoulders. Keep your body straight as you bend your elbows to lean in towards the wall. Once your face gets close, stop and hold if you’re able. Straighten your arms to push your body away from the wall and repeat.
Single-Leg Calf Raises
Sit tall in a study chair with your feet planted flat on the floor about hip widths distance apart. Lift your right heel from the ground as high as you can without taking your toes off the ground. You should feel your calf engage as you perform the exercise. Lower the heel back to the floor and repeat. Then repeat the movement with your left leg. If you still have energy after these, repeat the exercise with both heels simultaneously. At the end of your last set, hold with both your heels lifted off the floor for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the exercise, try it standing up while holding on to a wall or chair. If you feel like you can take on the challenge – test your balance by putting both of your hands on your hips.
Sit tall in a sturdy chair with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor – hip widths distance apart. Extend your right leg and flex your right foot. Your heel should remain in contact with the ground, but the toes should be pointing up throughout. Engage your glutes and hamstring as you drag your right heel back toward the chair while remaining in contact with the floor. Next, reverse the movement and slide your heel away from you, extending your right knee. Perform 10 repetitions on one side and switch legs. If your heel isn’t sliding smoothly, try using a paper plate or a small towel to make it easier.
Seated Shoulder Press (Strength training exercise)
If you have them readily available, challenge yourself by using lightweight dumbbells, water bottles, canned goods, or anything else you can find at home that could add a little weight. Find your sturdy chair, sit tall and lay your feet flat on the ground– shoulder width distance apart. Hold your object in each hand at your shoulders, keeping your elbows bent and your palms facing away from you. Press your arms straight up overhead, extending your elbows. Slowly lower your hands back down to your starting position and repeat. If you don’t feel comfortable holding any object, make your hands into little fists while you do the exercise.
Exercises to Improve Balance in Seniors
Losing coordination and balance can be very telling warning signs of an upcoming fall. Exercise can help improve balance, hence preventing possible falls. Here are a couple of equipment free exercises that you can do:
Single Limb Stance
Stand behind a steady, solid chair and hold on to the back of it. Make sure it doesn’t have wheels and test to see if it easily slips. Once you’re comfortable with your grip, lift up your right food and balance on your left. Hold that position for as long as you can and then switch feet! As you get more comfortable or to make it more challenging – simply try to rely less and less on the chair until you’re able to stand on one foot without the chair.
Heel to Toe Walk
Put your right foot in front of the left so that the heel of your right touches the top of the toes of your left. Find your balance in this position and then move the left so that the heel touches the toes of your right. Bring your foot down slowly by bringing down your heel first and slowly putting weight on the rest of your foot. Walk this way for as many steps as you can.
Tippy Toe Lifts
Stand behind a chair or a counter and place your hands on the surface for support. Push yourself up onto your tippy toes as high as you can and then return back to a flat foot. Repeat as many times as you can! This is a great exercise to do while you’re in the kitchen waiting for something to cook or for your morning coffee or tea to brew.
Marching in Place
Stand straight, life your right knee as high as you can. Lower and repeat with the left leg. If you need to hold onto something, do the exercise in place in front of a counter. If you feel confident, try marching to and from places inside your house.
Side Leg Raise
Find your sturdy chair and stand behind it with your feet slightly apart. Slowly lift your right leg to the side while keeping your back straight and your toe facing forward. Lower your leg slowly and repeat. Switch legs and do the same with your left.
Exercises Seniors Should Avoid
It’s normal and very understandable for seniors and their loved ones to be concerned about safety while exercising. Exercise is meant to improve health, not cause anyone to get hurt. It’s important to find a routine that fits their lifestyle and routines. Check with a primary care physician before starting any new programs and make sure to avoid any exercises that might have negative physical or even emotional effects. In general, try to prevent anything that may cause too much stress on their body. These exercises include, but are not limited to:
- Squats with dumbbells or weights
- Bench press
- Leg press
- Long-distance running
- Abdominal crunches
- Upright row
- High-intensity interval training
If you have any questions about specific exercises that you might not be sure of, contact a professional. Situations and capacity vary person to person, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Lastly, while these minutes of exercise are beneficial, lifestyle changes can be just as important. Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine in simple ways can be a great way of staying active. Some examples include:
- When possible, make it a goal to take the stairs instead of the elevator – especially when you’re only going up one or two floors
- If you’re driving to the store or to an appointment, park farther than you normally would from the entrance
- For short distances, try walking or biking. A great place to start is to do this for any place that is less than half a mile away (roughly a 10-15-minute walk)!
- Do some yard work or gardening in your spare time
- Walk your pet and maybe play an extra round of catch
- If you’re watching something on TV, try standing up and walking or doing light exercises during commercials
If you’re having trouble finding motivation to do these exercises and activities, find a buddy to keep you accountable or contact a professional to help you. For example, Homethrive Care Guides can be a great asset to help you and your family set and work towards your goals. As you continue to reach and surpass them, they will work to set new ones with you!