Exercise for Older Adults: Balance, Strength, and Stretching

Category: Physical Therapy

It’s common knowledge that exercise benefits people of all ages, but you may not know just how important it is to keep moving as you age. Many seniors don’t get the exercise they need regularly. Still, a small amount of daily exercise can improve balance, strengthen bones and muscles, and increase flexibility in joints and tendons.

Even just 20 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days per week can significantly improve your overall health in your golden years. 

Here are three types of exercise you should focus on as an older adult: 

  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Stretching

Benefits of Exercise for Aging Adults

As you age, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Too often, our daily activities become repetitive tasks that we do without even thinking about them. This can affect our mental health as well as our physical well-being. 

Exercise helps us combat these challenges by giving us a break from everyday life while boosting strength and improving flexibility. A little exercise can go a long way toward reducing stress and encouraging socialization. 

Improves Mental Health

Physically inactive people are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, and even low-intensity physical activity can improve symptoms.

Keeps Bones Strong

Stronger bones mean fewer trips to your doctor due to fractures. To keep your bones strong, it’s recommended that you perform weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and jogging.

Improves Physical Health

As we age, it becomes more critical to maintain a healthy weight and stay active. Regular exercise can help prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease, which are common among older people.

Improves Joint Health

Exercising increases blood flow to joints, which helps keep them healthy and pain-free. Healthy joints can reduce your risk of injury, so you can continue moving and exercising as your body ages.

Prevents Falls

Falls constitute a significant risk to seniors, as they can lead to serious injury or even death. The National Council on Aging reports¹ that over three million Americans aged 65 and older are treated in emergency rooms for injuries suffered from falls every year. And being stronger and healthier means you are less likely to fall.

Best Exercises for Seniors

Any type of movement that helps keep your body fit by maintaining active muscles can be considered exercise. Here are some simple ways to incorporate more exercise into your day.

1. Chair Dips

This exercise tones and builds arm strength. Sit in a chair with both feet firmly on the floor and knees bent at 90 degrees. Place hands on either side of your chair arms and fully extend your arms until they support your body.

2. Resistance Bands

Exercise bands are inexpensive, portable, and easy to use. They’re effective at strengthening both large muscle groups and small stabilizer muscles, making them a great addition to any exercise routine.

3. Chair Leg Raises

Lie on your back and raise both legs against a wall. Hold for a few seconds and lower. Build up to three sets of 15 reps for each leg.

4. Yoga

According to AARP², yoga helps with blood pressure, bone health, weight loss, strength, balance, joint health, mental clarity, and mood balance.

5. Wall Push-Ups

You don’t need a gym membership to get some exercise; instead, workout at home with simple body-weight moves. One way to do that is with wall push-ups. 

6. Walking

Walking is an excellent form of exercise that doesn’t put too much stress on joints or bones. Start by setting a goal to take a 15-minute walk every day, which should be enough to help you get in shape and build up muscle.

7. Swimming

Swimming is a full-body workout that’s gentle on joints and requires little to no equipment. It also keeps you cool in warm weather, which is great for those who overheat easily.

8. Plank Leg Lifts

Plank leg lifts are a great exercise to strengthen and tone your core, back, and leg muscles. While in plank position (also known as upright), lift one leg up behind you and then bring it back down. Repeat on the other side.

9. Bicycling

Biking is another excellent exercise for the elderly that is easy on the joints while giving you a good workout. Be sure to ease into this type of exercise if it’s new to you. Or better yet, start with a stationary bicycle in the comfort of your own home.

Conclusion

Thanks to the growing body of research about exercise and aging³, we know that physical activity can have powerful effects on the body well into later life. 

If you struggle with your health or have difficulty getting around, the caring team at Haven Health can assess your needs and create a personalized plan to improve your quality of life. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Sources: 

¹Get the Facts on Falls Prevention. National Council on Aging. Retrieved 23 June 2022.

²Paturel, A. (November 2016) Yoga Poses for Your 50s, 60s and 70s — and Beyond. AARP. Retrieved 23 June 2022.

³Distefano, G. et al (March 2018) Effects of Exercise and Aging on Skeletal Muscle. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 23 June 2022.