Exercises to Help Senior Citizens

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that seniors do exercises that address four important areas.                                       

        Balance:  Helps prevent falls
        Endurance:  Increase heart rate (aerobic activities)
        Flexibility:  Simple stretching
        Strength:  2-3 times weekly strengthening exercises

 

Yoga

Yoga’s stretching, breathing, and meditation are a safe and effective way to increase overall health. Over 14 million Americans age 50+ have practiced yoga. It helps prevent decrepitude, a plight of aging.

Though practiced in the West as a form of fitness, its basis is from Eastern philosophy. Besides the flexibility and strengthening, it also promotes better sleep. The deep breathing exercise creates a mind -body experience from stretching postures.

It’s a safer form of exercise for seniors and can be adapted to individual needs. It opens the joints without the stress of other forms of exercise.

Here are some of the benefits of yoga for seniors:                                                       

  • Better balance: Strengthens abdominal muscles and improves core stability. This will keep you steadier and reduce the risk of falling.
  • Flexibility: Great senior stretching exercise. Holding a pose for several breaths encourage your muscles and connective tissues to relax and loosen, which helps to increase your range of motion. 
  • Enhance breathing: Breathing control practices can expand your lung capacity and improve pulmonary health. Practice three times a week for 12 weeks and bring significant improvement to your respiratory function.
  • Stronger bones: Helps brittle bones and osteoporosis. A consistent yoga routine including weight-bearing postures can help bolster bone strength for seniors. Some promising research has suggested that doing yoga can actually improve bone density in postmenopausal women.
  • Reduced anxiety and stress: Meditation and mindful breathing encourages you to focus on the present and find a sense of peace. It can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and help ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. This was proven in a National Institutes of Health survey. 85 percent of people who engaged in yoga said they experienced reduced stress as a result.
  • Better sleep: Helps sleep disturbances, a common complaint, among seniors. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicines  said adults over age 60 struggling with insomnia who practiced yoga twice a week and underwent daily sessions at home reported significant improvements in both the duration and overall quality of their sleep.
  • Reconnection with body: Hormonal and other physical changes can make our bodies feel more foreign over time, and a sense of disconnection can set in between mind and body due to stress. 

A Non-Traditional Option: Chair Yoga for Seniors

Not everyone is comfortable with the up-and-down movements of traditional yoga. In chair yoga, seniors who have mobility challenges or balance issues can enjoy the benefits of yoga without having to get down on a floor mat. A huge number of poses—from spinal twists and hip stretches to chest openers and forward bends—can be modified to be performed from a chair.

8 Types of  Yoga for Senior Citizens                                                      

  • Hatha: Encompasses all forms of yoga that concentrate on physical postures. This type of yoga feature a slow-paced series of sitting and standing poses. They are typically about stretching and breathing, not boosting your heart rate or getting your leg up behind your head. That’s why many people believe that hatha is the best type of yoga for beginners.
  • Iyengar: Methodical and precise, with a strong emphasis on proper form. Practitioners are encouraged to use props like bolsters, straps, blocks, and incline boards to help them get into the correct alignment. The props allow for all kinds of modifications, this is a good style of yoga for seniors with arthritis or other chronic conditions.
  • Restorative: Slow, meditative form of yoga that is designed to release tension passively, without stretching. The best type of yoga for seniors who want to cultivate relaxation and contentment. It’s not uncommon for people to fall asleep in class. Props are used to totally support the body, and poses are held for a long time, sometimes up to 10 minutes. 
  • Yin: Slow and focuses on holding poses for a long time. The difference between yin and restorative yoga is that restorative involves no active stretch, whereas in yin you work on stretching your deep connective tissues. Done regularly, it can help relieve stiffness and enhance flexibility.
  • Vinyasa: Yoga styles that involve matching breathing with a series of continuous movements that flow from one to another. Routines are often very fluid and quick. Vinyasa emphasizes the transitions between postures as much as the poses themselves. Vinyasa yoga is hard in the sense that it tends to be physically vigorous, but seniors who are reasonably fit may enjoy the challenge.
  • Ashtanga: Comprises a predetermined set of poses that are performed the same way every time. Fast-paced and physically challenging. It’s an intense, acrobatic activity that boosts your heart rate and circulation. It is the best type of yoga for weight loss. It is not generally recommended for beginners.
  • Bikram: Rooms are typically heated to more than 100 degrees and have 40-percent humidity. That guarantees you will sweat as you spend 90 minutes going through the sequence of 26 poses and two breathing techniques. The idea is to strengthen muscles and flush out body toxins. Warning: overheating risk. If you have low blood pressure , high blood pressure, or some kind of heart condition, Bikram is not for you.
  • Kundalini: Known as the “yoga of awareness,” it can be appealing to seniors who are keenly interested in the spiritual as well as the physical components of yoga. It combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and chanting.

Yoga offers the potential to work on your mind, body, and spirit at the same time, and for you to integrate those changes in your daily life.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

It focuses on muscle control, stability, balance, and flexibility. The movements are also very gentle. It is an ancient Chinese movement and means life energy.

It improves balance, stability, and flexibility in older people, even those with Parkinson’s disease. It can also help reduce pain like from knee osteoarthritis, back problems, and fibromyalgia.

It can help reduce the risk of falls among older adults. A source in th American Geriatric Society found that tai chi reduced falls by up to 50%.

Another trusted source in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation published that it also reduces the fear of falling. It may improve the quality of life for older people who can limit their activities from fear of falling.

This link shows movements as an introduction to tai chi. Some of the poses can also be done in a chair. But they are better to do standing if able. One can hold onto a chair for support.

Martial Arts for Seniors of All Ability Levels

As people age, their bodies tend to get slower and weaker, which can make them vulnerable to attacks by criminals. Age and physical limitations do not have to prevent you from learning how to protect yourself. Studying martial arts regularly can be an empowering way for seniors to learn how to defend themselves. It can also help boost their stamina, coordination, range of motion, and mental acuity.

The best martial art for seniors is the one that aligns with their capabilities. You don’t want to overdo things and injure yourself. It’s important to begin slowly, then gradually build up your skill level. 

Here are a few types of defensive martial arts that may be good options for seniors:                                                     

  • Judo focuses on using an adversary’s strength against him or her. It lets you disable an opponent by throwing him or her to the ground, then subduing him or her through pins, holds, and locks. You need a certain amount of dexterity, since the throwing and grappling can be demanding. Some instructors can adapt their classes so that seniors avoid moves that are too strenuous or uncomfortable.
  • Aikido is ideal for older adults as well as people with disabilities. Like judo, aikido is based on turning an attacker’s strength and power against him or her. By redirecting the force of an attack, a less physically equipped adult can overcome a younger and stronger opponent. Aikido does not generally involve punches and kicks. It can also teach you how to fall properly in order to avoid getting injured.
  • Jiu-Jitsu is another soft art based on defending oneself against a more powerful opponent by concentrating on manipulation and balance rather than counterforce. While it does incorporate some striking, most of its movements involve throws and joint locks. You will be taught how to dodge attacks and escape from holds. It’s about leverage and technique as opposed to size and strength.

  • Wing Chun is a form of kung fu which uses open-handed strikes and low kicks. Because it focuses on precision and posture rather than raw power, wing chun can be excellent training for older adults. It’s a low-impact activity that does not involve jumping or acrobatics, so it’s easier on the knees than some other forms of martial arts.
  • Krav Maga, believed by many as the best martial art for self-defense. Developed by the Israeli military, Krav Maga is really more of a street combat system than a martial art. There are no sporting application. The whole focus is on surviving an attack. You learn to neutralize an assailant quickly using simple, natural movements (including groin kicks and eye gouges, which are not permitted in other types of martial arts). The techniques are highly efficient and can be used by people of any age, since they do not rely on strength, speed, or flexibility.

Yoga practice

Warm up stretching

 

Pilates

Stretching and also part of yoga or pilates instruction

 

Group Yoga

 

 

 

 

Personal trainer giving advice senior man about next exercise.

Best Exercises and Workouts for Seniors

No matter your age, the best exercise for you is the one you enjoy the most. After all, if you don’t like your workout, how long are you going to stick with it? Here, experts share the best exercises for older adults. As always, it’s smart to check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness program, especially if you have a chronic condition, balance issues, or injuries. 

Stay strong, be safe, and maintain your independence by integrating these top fitness options into your training plan.

 

Swimming

There’s a reason swimming is called the world’s perfect exercise. Whether you’re performing the breaststroke, taking a water aerobics class, or playing Marco Polo with the grandkids, getting in the pool is a great way to increase your cardiovascular fitness while also strengthening your muscles.

There’s a reason swimming is called the world’s perfect exercise. Whether you’re performing the breaststroke, taking a water aerobics class, or playing Marco Polo with the grandkids, getting in the pool is a great way to increase your cardiovascular fitness while also strengthening your muscles.

It does all this while putting minimal stress on your bones and joints, which is a major plus for men and women who have arthritis or osteoporosis. As if that isn’t enough reason to jump in, a 2012 study in the Journal of Aging Research suggests that swimming can help older adults keep their minds as sharp as their bodies.

Pilates

If you are looking to strengthen your abdomen and pelvis as well as maintain good posture, then Pilates is for you. It also has a strong mind/body connection, so you may like it if you enjoy yoga but need a more intense core workout.

Pilates involves precise moves and specific breathing techniques. It’s not for you if you prefer a less structured program. It also won’t fit your needs if you are looking for an aerobic workout.

Pilates can be very demanding, so start slowly. Instructors do not have to be licensed, so it’s best to get recommendations before selecting one.

If you have arthritis, a strength-training program such as Pilates is a very important part of your exercise program. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training can help curb symptoms, maintain balance, keep joints flexible, and help you get to and keep an ideal body weight.

Pull out your gym mat and get ready to do a series of movements that will stabilize and strengthen your core.

The moves may look simple, but they take a lot of precision and control. It’s not like doing a bunch of crunches; there’s a strong emphasis on technique.

Pilates classes typically take 45 minutes to an hour, but you can do fewer moves in less time.

You’ll get stronger, more sculpted muscles and gain flexibility. You may also have better posture and a better sense of well-being.

 

It’s demanding, but it’s not the kind of workout that always works up a sweat. It’s all about concentration and breathing. But you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles during each exercise.

Pilates’ main focus is on core however, you can expect to see strength gains in your arms and legs.  Positions and movements used to activate core rely on extremities to control &/or apply loads to the core and likewise will benefit from Pilates.

 

 

Bodyweight Training

One out of every three older adults experiences severe muscle loss, according to an analysis in Age and Ageing. Meanwhile, when it comes to fighting age-related abdominal fat—a marker for overall health—Harvard research shows that strength training is more time-efficient than cardiovascular exercise.

Fortunately, you don’t have to bench press a ton of weight to keep your muscles healthy and prevent fat gain over the years, Dr. Shin says. In fact, she notes, for most older adults, it’s far safer to start small. Simple bodyweight exercises such as chair squats, single-leg stands, wall pushups, and stair climbing will do a great job at keeping your body strong and ready to tackle everyday activities.

 

 

 

 

Resistance Band Workouts

Your gym undoubtedly has an array of resistance bands ready for use, but these inexpensive and beginner-friendly exercise tools are perfect for at-home workouts as well, Dr. Shin says.

In addition, bands can help you challenge your muscles in ways you might not be able to with equipment-free training. For instance, when it comes to strengthening your back and improving your posture.

 

 

Walking

Even if you can’t find the time to perform a structured workout, you likely have time to put one foot in front of the other to get where you need to go, Dr. Shin says. She recommends most people take 10,000 steps per day, even on days they don’t “work out.” Research in PLOS One found that people who increased their activity levels to 10,000 steps per day were 46 percent less likely to die in the following 10 years compared to those who stayed sedentary.

For some older adults or people with a chronic condition, 10,000 may not be the right exact number. But the fact remains: Walking is a great, free workout that can have a big impact on your health.

 

 

 

 

Cycling

Another low-impact form of exercise, cycling is ideal for those who want to increase their leg strength, but can’t run or engage in other high-impact sports due to osteoporosis or joint issues, Dr. Shin says. A 2017 analysis in the European Review of Aging and Physical Activity found that cycling also helps improve cardiovascular health, metabolic health, and cognitive performance in adults older than 70.

If you have cycling trails near your home, consider scheduling regular bike rides with family or friends. Indoor cycling is another great option for those without access to trails or when weather conditions aren’t ideal. Plus, with a stationary bike, you don’t have to worry about falls or needing to wear a helmet.

 

Strength and Aerobic Classes

If you attend group aerobic classes, you already know that group exercise isn’t just a fantastic way to break a sweat. You’ll also have tons of fun and make new friends along the way, both of which are hugely important when it comes to making exercise a habit. In fact, 2017 research in BMC Public Health notes that the social aspect of group exercise increases activity levels in older adults over the long term.

There is no end to the list of group exercises out there, from SilverSneakers Classic to Zumba to boot camp. If you’re nervous about jumping into a new group, ask a friend to sign up with you.

 

Personal Training

If you’re looking for more attention and instruction than group classes provide, working with a personal trainer is a great path to fitness and fun. Many offer one-on-one and small-group sessions, the latter in which you and one to three of your friends perform the same workout with the trainer. Make it easier on your wallet by using one-on-one sessions to help you get started with a program you can continue on your own or going the small-group route.

No matter which option you choose, the trainer will help you master proper form and build a solid base of exercise knowledge that you can carry with you for years to come. In addition, your workouts will likely blend different types of exercise.

When choosing a trainer, look for someone certified through a governing body like the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, or the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Bonus points if they have a history of training older adults.

A flexible grandson and grandfather are doing yoga at home.
Grandfather Playing Soccer In Garden With Grandson

Be physically active without spending a dime!

You don’t need to spend a fortune to be physically active. You can be active in many ways without spending any money. You don’t need special exercise equipment other than comfortable walking shoes. Here are a few ideas to help get you moving for free.

Family Activities for Exercise

Being physically active with your family is a great way to stay healthy and make exercise fun. Whether you play team sports with the entire family or take brisk walks with your spouse, child, or grandchild, you’ll be rewarded with improved health and time spent together.

Here are a few activity ideas for you to do with your grandchildren:

Infants and toddlers

  • Play games that get you moving.
  • Take walks with them in their stroller or bike rides.
    Don’t forget your helmets.
  • Sign up for kids activities with them like play groups or classes.
    or baby-friendly swimming classes.

School-aged children

  • Take them to the park. They love when you push their swing.
  • Jump rope together or hop scotch.
  • Build a fort indoors or out.
  • Play ball activities like catch, kickball, basketball, or soccer.
  • Go swimming or biking together.
  • Have a competition video fitness game together and see who wins!

Teens and young adults

  • Participate in activities that interest them.
    You can try hiking, swimming, skating, tennis, or golf.
  • Play physical activities that require two people, like basketball, tennis, or ping pong.
  • Some productive activities are helping in the garden or with heavy-duty household chores.
  • Make your own weights from household items such as soup cans or bottles of water.
  • Try out free demonstration exercises classes at your local senior center or fitness center.
  • Go for a hike in a park.
  • Participate in community-sponsored fun runs or walks.
  • Yard work such as raking, digging, and planting can keep you active.
  • Make sure to drink water or juice after exercise.

Stay active and utilize all four seasons

Be creative and prevent boredom with physical activities. Try new forms of exercise that will keep you both motivated . A change in seasons is an excellent time to be creative about your exercise routine and try something new. There are many ways to be active throughout the year.

Winter

  • Build a snowman together or go ice skating.
  • Go to the mall.
  • Trying out a gym or fitness club. Take Zumba. Some offer holiday specials.
  • Indoor dance lessons are great. You can try salsa, tango, even belly dancing would get them silly.

Spring

Mother’s Day , Senior woman and daughter relax with gardening in backyard
  • As the temperatures start to get warm, the lifting and bending you do when gardening are great for strength and flexibility. 
  • bike ride is a great way to enjoy the spring before the heat of summer begins.
  • Even spring cleaning can be fun with upbeat music.
  • Build endurance and strength with a bike ride. Remember your helmet.

Summer

  • Swim laps or water aerobics class are both refreshing in the warmest weather.
  • Walking in the mall is a way to beat the heat.
  • When your grandkids get out of school for the summer they can teach you their favorite sport or physical activity.
  • You can bring friends and family together during National Bowling Week and challenge each other to a friendly tournament.  It’s the first week in August. 

Fall

    • National Yoga Awareness Month is in September. It’s a great way to try classes for beginners.
    • Try joining an indoor sports league like basketball, handball, or bowling.
    • Take long walks to see the beautiful fall foliage. Once the leaves fall, raking is good exercise.
    • If you have holiday shopping to do, try walking the entire mall each time you visit.