Fitness for Seniors: How to Stay Fit While Aging in Place
It’s a new year, and that means most of us are thinking about making healthy changes. Whether you call them resolutions or not, it’s only natural to see this time as a perfect moment for reflecting on our health and working toward better habits.
For many older adults, however, the fitness gear ads, trendy at-home workouts, and discounted gym memberships feel like they’re geared toward someone else—that is, a much younger audience.
Unfortunately, only 12.7% of people 65 or older get enough physical activity in their lives. Exercise for seniors can feel out of reach for many reasons, from health problems to mobility concerns. But it doesn’t have to.
There are plenty of ways to get and stay active when you’re aging in place. Let’s talk about some of the ways that seniors can get moving safely and improve their overall health!
The Many Benefits of Exercise for Seniors
Exercise has been touted as a wonder drug—even the New York Times has said as much. Even light exercise has a bevy of benefits, from improving longevity to managing chronic conditions. Getting regular physical activity can help older adults maintain their ability to perform activities of daily living, prevent illnesses and health conditions like heart disease, and improve overall quality of life.
Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons people over 65 shouldn’t throw in the towel on fitness.
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Enhanced strength and flexibility
- Weight management
- Joint health
- Balance and coordination
- Chronic disease management
- Increased longevity
- Boosted mood and mental health
- Improved sleep
3 Exercises for Seniors of Any Age & Ability
Each of these exercises can be great for older adults. Remember to always start with a warmup, listen to your body, and take breaks as needed. It's important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts as you get stronger.
Sample Warm-up (5 minutes):
- Gentle neck rolls: Slowly roll your head in a circular motion, five times forward and five times backward.
- Arm circles: Extend your arms out to the sides and make small circles forward and backward, 10 times each direction.
- Ankle circles: Sit or stand holding onto a chair for support. Make small circles with your feet, 10 times clockwise and 10 times counterclockwise.
Balance Exercises for Seniors
To reduce the risk of falls, improving balance becomes increasingly important as we age. Thankfully, several simple yet effective exercises can help seniors improve their stability and prevent falls. Here's an example of a fun and engaging balancing exercise routine for seniors:
- Single-leg stand: Hold onto a chair or wall for support if needed. From a standing position, lift one leg off the ground and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Gradually increase the hold time as you get stronger.
- Heel-toe walk: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a step forward, placing your heel where your toes were from the previous step. Continue walking in this heel-toe fashion for 10-15 steps, then turn and repeat in the other direction.
- Marching in place: Lift your knees high as you march in place, keeping your core engaged and your back straight. Do this for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Chair Exercises for Seniors
Chair exercises offer a fantastic way for seniors to keep their bodies moving and improve their overall health and well-being, all from the comfort of their own homes. Remember to use a sturdy chair, listen to your body, and take breaks as needed.
- Bicep curls: Sit tall at the edge of the chair. Hold a lightweight object (water bottles or soup cans work well) in each hand. Bend your elbows, bringing the weights towards your shoulders, then slowly lower them back down. Repeat 10-12 times.
- Shoulder shrugs: Raise your shoulders up towards your ears, hold for a second, then relax. Repeat 10-12 times.
- Heel raises: Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your heels off the ground, squeezing your calf muscles. Hold for a second, then lower them back down. Repeat 10-12 times.
- Leg extensions: Sit tall with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Slowly lift one leg up as high as you comfortably can, hold for a second, then lower it back down. Repeat 10-12 times per leg.
Core Exercises for Seniors
If you haven’t heard by now, crunches are OUT. Instead, try these three core exercises recommended by a Harvard-affiliated physical therapist to build strength in the abdomen, back, and pelvis area.
- Bridges: This exercise is perfect for beginners or those with limitations. Simply lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down.
- Knee Plank: This is the most beginner-friendly type of plank. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your core and draw your belly button towards your spine to maintain a straight line from your head to your knees. Hold for as long as you comfortably can, starting with 10-15 seconds.
- Bird-dog (a.k.a. Opposite leg and arm raise): Start on all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. Keep your back flat and core engaged as you extend one arm forward and the opposite leg back, keeping them parallel to the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
Need Help with Healthy Aging in Place? Consider In-Home Care
Before starting any new exercise routine, you should always consult your doctor and keep your well-being top of mind. If you or your loved one has limited mobility, has been diagnosed with dementia, or has other conditions that might make finding the right wellness routine challenging, now might be the time to consider at-home senior care.
ComForCare’s senior caregivers can take care of tasks around the home that they may no longer be able to safely accomplish on their own. They can also help seniors manage chronic conditions, provide medication reminders, and perform home safety checks to ensure a safe environment.
As part of their comprehensive companionship, personal care, and wellness services, they can tailor a plan to your or your loved one’s needs. That could include helping navigate fitness options, coordinating talks with healthcare providers about exercise, and being there during exercise to ensure safety.
Choose ComForCare: Canada's Choice for In-Home Senior Care
With over 200 locations in North America, ComForCare is dedicated to person-centered care for older adults. Our flexible services can easily adapt to your family’s needs, from light assistance to around-the-clock care. Help your loved one live their best life possible when you choose ComForCare. Reach out today to learn more about our services and find your perfect caregiver!