Keep Moving! Best Exercises for Seniors

Incorporating exercises into life at any age is essential. For younger people, it includes making good lifestyle choices and creating habits to last a lifetime. For older adults, it means maintaining independence and having the strength needed to complete the activities of daily living later in life.

The benefits of exercise are well-known. From maintaining independence to increased balance and brain function, exercise has benefits that offset some risks for chronic illness and disease, helping to promote overall health. Additionally, physical activity helps older adults avoid serious injuries often resulting from falls.

safe exercises for seniors

3 Ways to Keep Life Moving

1. Get your heart rate up
2. Stay flexible
3. Increase balance for safety

1. Choose exercises to get you moving each and every day.

Ideally, adults should do at least 2.5 – 5 hours of aerobic activity each week. That includes exercises that get your heart rate up and maybe even cause you to be a little out of breath. Depending on age and ability, this could be walking, riding a bike, or hiking in nature.

It’s okay to start low and go slow. As your body adapts to the increased blood flow and demand on the heart and lungs, you will find breathing is a little easier and you are able to go just a little bit further. The more time spent on aerobic exercise does a body – and mind – a whole lot of good.

Benefit of Exercises

Sustainable independence
Improved balance
Increased energy
Enhanced brain function

Even with a cane or walker, walking for a short distance helps balance. Modify the pace, distance, and time of walk to what feels good for you. In a wheelchair? Everyone’s got a little boogie left in those hips! Dancing counts, so just choose to move.

2. Staying flexible through stretching benefits your overall health.

Flexibility is key to managing balance problems and gait compensations. As we age, our bodies must manage the energy required for standing and walking. Key stretches focusing on the shoulders, hips, and legs will help strengthen the body through the whole range of motion.

Helpful Stretches

Hip Flexor Stretch: improve step length, more efficient walking, and less energy consumed

Lie on your back with one leg hanging off the side of the bed. Hug the opposite thigh to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.

Pec Wall Stretch: improve posture, increase shoulder and spinal range of motion, relieve shoulder pain

Stand in a doorway with one arm at shoulder height, place hand and forearm on the wall next to the door. Gently turn away from your arm for a stretch in the chest muscles. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

Knee Extension Stretch: improve ability to straighten knee, reduce low back pain, avoid crouched gait

Sit upright in a chair with a low stool in front of you. Prop one heel onto the stool and gently lean forward at the hip. You will feel a stretch in the back of your knee. Hold the stretch for 2-3 minutes before switching legs.

Flexibility is important to help with mobility and independence and can help prevent injuries. From posture and balance to everyday activities, flexible muscles can help support and protect our joints, keeping us moving safely through our day. Embracing flexibility exercises can enhance quality of life, allowing us to age with grace and strength.

safe exercises for seniors

3. Improving your balance affects your mental and physical health.

Maintaining our balance isn’t just about avoiding falls while standing or walking. It’s about minimizing the persistent worry that you *might* fall, a nagging fear that wears you down and takes a toll on your mental health. Our brain receives input from multiple systems – vision, hearing, touch – and translates that into motor output. Maintenance of these systems through exercise is key to preventing decline later in life.

Helpful Balance Exercises

Tai Chi: improves body awareness, reduces risk of falls
Ancient exercise form with many health benefits

Single Leg Balance with Stool: strengthen core, practice balance, special awareness

Stand at a sink, holding on to the edge of the sink, place one foot on low stool. Balance, release grip on sink (if comfortable) and lift foot up and down from stool.

Advanced: stand at sink and lift one leg at a time, releasing grip on sink and balancing on one foot. Switch feet and repeat.

Lower Body Strength: maintain strength in hips, quads, and calves, improve balance, reduce falls

Sit-to-stand 10 times, twice a day. Add in shifting up and down on your toes (heel raises) after each stand.

Pick exercises that make you feel comfortable yet challenge you enough to get your heart rate up and flex those muscles. Add variety to your routine and have some fun! Before you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, sit-to-stand 10 times or add hip flexor stretches to each commercial break.

How Can I Safely Start Exercises?

It’s always best to exercise caution when starting a new exercise routine. Talk with your medical provider about your plans for healthy aging. Share your goals so that they can support you and monitor progress on some of your basic metabolic tests.

An Occupational Therapist can create a customized plan for you, making changes as you become more comfortable, and your abilities improve. Your Occupational Therapist can design an exercise routine that works for you and keeps you accountable as you adjust to your new lifestyle. Healthy aging is a choice to keep life moving and your Occupational therapist will be your biggest cheerleader!

safe exercises for seniors

Not sure where to start? Connect with Coastal Occupational Therapy for an evaluation and services that come straight to your front door. Whether you are recovering from surgery, interested in starting a new exercise plan, or looking to refresh a routine that isn’t working for you anymore, Occupational Therapy can help you make the improvements that help you keep life moving.

Convenience and expertise are two reasons Mobile Medical Services are a Resource We Love. Learn more about the helpful services of Occupational Therapy in the Resources Section of our Blog.

 

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