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Exercise for seniors: Be active at any age

18 Aug 2021

For senior adults, when self-reliance is a priority, exercise is one of the best ways to maintain independence


Seniors who exercise regularly are less likely to depend on others for their day-to-day needs as they will be active and mobile into a ripe old age. According to Harvard Medical School, regular exercise promotes an older adult’s ability to walk, bathe, cook, eat, dress, and use the restroom with ease. 

Being inactive makes you tired as well as devoid of energy. But, any amount of exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which are essential neurotransmitters linked to pain mitigation and a sense of well-being. Endorphins combat stress hormones, promote healthy sleep, and make you feel healthy and energetic.

Among adults, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes are common diseases after the age of 40. However, adopting a more active lifestyle can contribute to keeping these diseases at bay as well as reducing the unpleasant symptoms associated with their onset. Hence, if you are at risk for any disease, exercise may be one way to avoid it. Consider some  of these most appropriate exercises for adults:

Water aerobics

Water aerobics have become an extremely popular form of exercise among all ages, but in particular for seniors. Exercising in the water is ideal for those living with arthritis and other forms of joint pain, as the buoyancy of the water puts less stress on the joints. Additionally, water brings natural resistance, which eliminates the need for weights in strength training. Water aerobics helps improve your strength and flexibility with minimal stress. Some suitable water aerobic exercises include flutter kicking, leg lifts, standing water push-ups and arm curls.

Chair yoga

Chair yoga is an alternative when you find it difficult to squat on the floor to do yogic postures. Chair yoga is a low-impact form of exercise that improves muscle strength, mobility, balance and flexibility, all of which are crucial health aspects for seniors. It lays less stress on muscles, joints, and bones than more conventional forms of yoga. As an advantage, chair yoga has been shown to improve mental health in older adults. Participants of this form of yoga have testified to having better quality sleep, fewer instances of depression, and a general sense of well-being.


Pilates is a popular low-impact form of exercise involving breathing, alignment, concentration and core strength. To do pilates, you need mats, pilates balls, and other inflated accessories to help build strength without the stress of higher-impact exercises. Pilates has been shown to improve balance, develop core strength, and increase flexibility in older adults. Some great pilates exercises for older adults include mermaid movement, side circles, food slides, step ups and leg circles.



One of the least stressful and accessible forms of exercise is walking. For some seniors, walking can be a bigger challenge than others, so distance and step goals differ from person to person. For the general population, around 10,000 steps per day is advisable for a healthy lifestyle. However, older adults as well as those with difficulty in walking or joint pains may settle for a smaller number (5000-6000 steps per day).


Improve your balance

After retirement, improving your bank balance might be quite a task but enhancing your own balance needs just the will to do so. Here are some exercises for seniors to improve balance:

Single limb stance

Stand behind a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels), and hold on to the back of it. Lift up your right foot and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet. The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair for up to a minute.

Walking heel to toe

Walking makes your legs stronger, which enables you to walk without falling. Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the heel of your right foot touches the top of the toes of your left foot. Move your left foot in front of your right, putting your weight on your heel. Then, shift your weight to your toes. Repeat the step with your left foot. Walk this way for 15-20 steps.

Rock the boat

Stand with your feet apart, so that the space between them is the same width as your hips. Make sure both feet are pressed into the ground firmly. Stand straight, with your head level. Then, transfer your weight to your right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the ground. Hold that position for 30 seconds or less. Slowly put your foot back onto the ground, then transfer your weight to that foot. Repeat with the other foot. Five times with each foot is a good start.

Clock reach

You’ll need a chair for this exercise. Imagine that you are standing in the centre of a clock. The number 12 is directly in front of you and the number 6 is directly behind you. Hold the chair with your left hand. Lift your right leg and extend your right arm so it’s pointing to the number 12. Next, point your arm towards the number three, and finally, point it behind you at the number 6. Bring your arm back to the number three, and then to the number 12. Look straight ahead the whole time.Repeat this exercise twice per side.

Back leg raises

This exercise for seniors strengthens the lower back. Stand behind a chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back – don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat this ten to 15 times per leg.

Wall pushups

As long as you’ve got a wall, you can do this strength training exercise for seniors. Stand an arm’s length in front of a wall that doesn’t have any paintings, decorations, windows or doors. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Do twenty of these.


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