4 types of exercises for seniors to try

There are four types of exercises for seniors that provide the most benefits. These are:

  • Endurance exercises
  • Strength exercises
  • Balance exercises
  • Flexibility exercises

Endurance activities like walking, jogging, swimming, raking, sweeping, dancing, and playing tennis elevate breathing and heart rate for an extended period of time. Some endurance activities are moderate while others are vigorous. It’s important to start out slowly with the former and progressively build up to the latter, a process that may take a few months. therefore, even though doing an activity for less than ten minutes at a time will not yield the desired benefits, it is recommended to start with only five minutes (that is if you can’t do more at first), and then gradually increase endurance to at least 30 minutes of moderate activities on most, if not all days of the week. Similarly, you can start walking on flat surfaces, and then slowly move to walking longer distances, and then to walking faster and even uphill.

 

Endurance

Activities

Moderate:

·         Walking briskly on a level surface.    Swimming.    

·         Dancing.    

·         Gardening, mowing, raking.    

·         Cycling on a stationary bicycle.    

·         Bicycling.    

·         Playing  

·         Tennis.

Vigorous:

·         Playing basketball.     Jogging.      

·         Climbing stairs or hills.     Shoveling snow.    

·         Brisk bicycling up hills.     Digging holes.

Safety:

·         Warm up and cool down before and after endurance activities with easy walking.

·         Drink liquid when sweating.

·         Dress in layers to add or remove clothes depending on whether it’s hot or cold.

·         Watch out for low branches and uneven sidewalks when walking outside.

·         Walk during the daytime or in well-lighted areas at night.

·         Use safety equipment (e.g. helmet for biking).

·         Stop if you start breathing hard, can’t talk, feel dizzy or feel chest pain.

 

Strength activities help to build muscle, and though you may not end up ripped to shreds, you will certainly find it easier to carry grocery bags, lift your grandchildren, or get up off a chair. Strength exercises are done by lifting or pushing weight, and it doesn’t matter if you use actual weights and resistance bands, or household items. You can also join a gym and use its strength-training equipment. Ideally, you should work on all major muscle groups for 30 minutes on two or more days of the week, being careful not to exercise the same muscle group on two consecutive days. Like with endurance training, you can gradually increase weight and number of repetitions whenever you’re ready to take on more exercise. Strength activities may be seen as an umbrella for several different exercises for seniors.

Strength

 

Activity

Steps

 

Wrist curls

1.       Rest forearm on arm of study chair with hand over edge.

2.       Hold weight with upward-facing palm.

3.       Bend wrist slowly up and down.

4.       Repeat 10-15 times.

5.       Repeat with other hand 10-15.

6.       Repeat 10-15 more times with each hand.

 

Arm curls

1.       Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.

2.       Hold weights straight down at your sides, palms facing forward. Slowly breathe in.

3.       Breathe out while slowly bending elbows and light weights toward the chest. Keep elbows at your sides.

4.       Hold position for 1 second.

5.       Repeat 10-15 times.

6.       Rest and repeat 10-15 more times.

 

Side arm raises

1.       Stand or sit in a firm armless chair.

2.       Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

3.       Hold hand weights straight down at your sides with palms facing inward.

4.       Breathe out slowly and raise both arms to the side, shoulder height.

5.       Hold for 1 second.

6.       Breathing in while slowly lowering arms to the sides.

7.       Repeat 10-15 times.

8.       Rest and repeat 10-15 more times.

 

Elbow extensions

1.       Stand or sit in a firm armless chair.

2.       Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

3.       Hold weight in one hand, palm facing inward, and raise the corresponding arm to the ceiling.

4.       Support said arm below the elbow with the other hand and slowly breathe in.

5.       Slowly bend raised arm at the elbow and bring the weight toward the shoulder.

6.       Hold for 1 second.

7.       Breathe out while slowly straightening the arm over the head.

8.       Repeat 10-15 times.

9.       Repeat 10-15 times with the other arm.

10.   Repeat 10-15 more times with each arm.

 

 

Chair dips

1.       Sit in a firm chair with armrests with feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

2.        Slightly lean forward keeping back and shoulders straight.

3.       Grasp chair arms and breathe in.

4.       Breathe out and use arms to push body slowly off chair.

5.       Hold for 1 second.

6.       Breathe in while slowly lowering yourself back down.

7.       Repeat 10-15 times.

8.       Rest and repeat 10-15 more times.

 

Seated rows

1.       Sit in a firm chair with armrests with feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

2.       Place center of resistance band under both feet and hold each end of the band with palms facing inward.

3.       Relax shoulders and extend arms beside the legs and slowly breathe in.

4.       Slowly breathe out and pull elbows back until hands are at the hips.

5.       Hold for 1 second.

6.       Breathe in and slowly return hands to starting position.

7.       Repeat 10-15 times.

8.       Rest and repeat 10-15 more times.

 

 

Back leg raises

1.       Stand behind a strong chair and hold on for balance. Slowly breathe in.  

2.       Breathe out and slowly lift one leg straight back without bending the knee or pointing the toes. If possible, do not lean forward. The supporting leg should be slightly bent.    

3.       Hold for 1 second.    

4.       Breathe in and slowly lower your leg.    

5.       Repeat 10-15 times.    

6.       Repeat 10-15 times with the other leg.    

7.       Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.

 

Knee curls

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair and hold on for balance. Lift one leg straight back without bending the knee or pointing the toes. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out and slowly bring heel up toward the buttocks as far as you can. Bend only from the knee, and keep hips still. The supporting leg should be slightly bent.
  3. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in and slowly lower the foot to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
  7. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.

 

Leg strengthening

  1. Sit in a firm chair supporting your back with the chair. Only the balls of the feet and the toes should rest on the floor. Put a rolled bath towel at the edge of the chair under the thighs for support. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out as you slowly extend one leg in front of you as straight as you can, without locking the knee.
  3. Flex foot to point toes toward ceiling. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in and slowly lower leg back down.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
  7. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.

 

Toe stands

  1. Stand behind a heavy chair, feet shoulder-width apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out as you slowly stand on tiptoes, as high as you can.
  3. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in and slowly lower heels to the floor.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.
  6. Rest; then repeat 10-15 more times.

 

Safety

·         Holding your breath during strength exercises can affect blood pressure, in particular if you have heart disease.

·         Weights should be brought into position with smooth, steady movements, as opposed to jerking or thrusting motions.

·         Breathe out when lifting or pushing, and breathe in when relaxing.

·         Do not lock joints of arms and legs into a strained position.

·         Use a bulky and strong chair for exercises that require a one.

 

Balance exercises are very useful in the prevention of falls, an accident that affects over one third of people aged 65 or older. The best part of balance activities is that they can be performed anywhere at any time. Some of these exercises require a chair; in time you can make them more challenging by holding on to the chair with one hand instead of two, then with one finger, then with no hands.

Balance

Activity

Steps

Standing on one foot

1.       Stand one foot behind a heavy chair and hold on for balance.

2.       Hold for up to 10 seconds.

3.       Repeat 10-15 times.

4.       Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.

5.       Repeat 10-15 times with each leg.

Walking heel to toe

1.       Put the heel of one foot in front of the toes of the other. Heel and toes should touch or almost touch.

2.       Pick a spot ahead and focus on it to keep you steady.

3.       Take one step; place heel in front of the toe of the other foot.

4.       Repeat for 20 steps.

Balance walk

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out as you slowly lift one leg straight back without bending the knee or pointing the toes. Try not to lean forward. The supporting leg should be slightly bent.
  3. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in and slowly lower your leg.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times with other leg.
  7. Repeat 10-15 more times with each leg.

Back leg raises

See strength exercises.

Side leg raises

  1. Stand behind a sturdy chair with feet slightly apart, holding on for balance. Breathe in slowly.
  2. Breathe out as you slowly lift one leg out to the side. Keep back straight and toes facing forward. The supporting leg should be slightly bent.
  3. Hold for 1 second.
  4. Breathe in and slowly lower your leg.
  5. Repeat 10- 15 times.
  6. Repeat 10- 15 times with other leg.
  7. Repeat 10- 15 more times with each leg.

Safety

·         Use a sturdy chair or have a person near you to hold on to should you feel unsteady.

·         Talk with a doctor about any exercise you’re unsure of.

 

Flexibility exercises provide you with more freedom of movement for your other exercises for seniors, as well as for your daily activities. Also known as stretching, flexibility activities may be done 3-5 times each per session. 

Flexibility

Activity

Steps

Neck stretch

  1. Stand or sit in a sturdy chair.
  2. Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  3. Slowly turn head to the right until you feel a slight stretch. Do not tip or tilt head forward or backward, but hold it in a comfortable position.
  4. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  5. Turn head to the left and hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.

Shoulder stretch

  1. Stand back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart and arms at shoulder height.
  2. Bend elbows so fingertips point toward the ceiling and touch the wall behind. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort, and stop immediately if you feel sharp pain.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Let arms slowly roll forward, remaining bent at the elbows, to point toward the floor and touch the wall again, if possible. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort.
  5. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Alternate pointing above head, then toward hips.
  7. Repeat at least 3-5 times.

Shoulder and upper arm raise

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold one end of a towel in right hand.
  3. Raise and bend right arm to drape the towel down your back. Keep right arm in this position and continue holding on to the towel.
  4. Reach behind lower back and grasp the towel with left hand.
  5. To stretch right shoulder, pull towel down with left hand. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort in your right shoulder.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  7. Reverse positions, and repeat at least 3-5 times.

Upper body stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall slightly farther than arm's length from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean body forward and place palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keeping back straight, slowly walk your hands up the wall until arms are above head.
  4. Hold arms overhead for about 10-30 seconds.
  5. Slowly walk your hands back down.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.

Chest stretch

  1. Standing or sit in a sturdy, armless chair.
  2. Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  3. Hold arms to your sides at shoulder height, with palms facing forward.
  4. Slowly move arms back, while squeezing shoulder blades together. Stop when you feel a stretch or slight discomfort.
  5. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.

Back stretch

  1. Sit up toward the front of a sturdy chair with armrests. Stay as straight as you can. Keep feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Slowly twist to the left from waist without moving hips. Turn head to the left. Lift left hand and hold on to the left arm of the chair. Place right hand on the outside of left thigh. Twist farther, if you can.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Slowly return to face forward.
  5. Repeat on the right side.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 more times.

Ankle stretch

  1. Sit securely toward the edge of a sturdy, armless chair.
  2. Stretch your legs out in front of you.
  3. With your heels on the floor, bend your ankles to point toes toward you.
  4. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  5. Bend ankles to point toes away from you and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.

Back of leg stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your right leg, keeping your knee slightly bent.
  3. Reach up and grasp your right leg with both hands. Keep your head and shoulders flat on the floor.
  4. Gently pull your right leg toward your body until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
  5. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  7. Repeat at least 3-5 times with left leg.

Thigh stretch

  1. Lie on your side with legs straight and knees together.
  2. Rest head on arm.
  3. Bend top knee and reach back and grab the top of the foot. If you can't reach your foot, loop a resistance band, belt, or towel over the foot and hold both ends.
  4. Gently pull leg until you feel a stretch in your thigh.
  5. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  7. Repeat at least 3-5 times with your other leg.

Hip stretch

  1. Lie on your back with legs together, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Try to keep both shoulders on the floor throughout the stretch.
  2. Slowly lower one knee as far as you can. Keep feet close together and try not to move the other leg.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Bring knee back up slowly.
  5. Repeat at least 3-5 times.
  6. Repeat at least 3-5 times with your other leg.

Lower back stretch

  1. Lie on your back with legs together, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Try to keep both arms and shoulders flat on the floor throughout the stretch.
  2. Keeping knees bent and together, slowly lower both legs to one side as far as you can.
  3. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
  4. Bring legs back up slowly and repeat toward other side.
  5. Continue alternating sides for at least 3-5 times on each side.

Calf stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall slightly farther than arm's length from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Step forward with right leg and bend right knee. Keeping both feet flat on the floor, bend left knee slightly until you feel a stretch in your left calf muscle. If you don't feel a stretch, bend right knee until you do.
  4. Hold for 10-30 seconds, and then return to starting position.
  5. Repeat with left leg.
  6. Continue alternating legs for at least 3-5 times on each leg.

Safety

·         Talk to a doctor before doing lower back exercises if you’ve had hip or back surgery.

·         Warming up with a few minutes of easy walking before stretching helps prevent injury.

·         Breathe normally while holding a stretch.

·         Slight discomfort while stretching is normal.

·         A sharp or stabbing pain means you’re stretching too far (as your flexibility increases you may try to stretch farther, but not so much that it is painful).

·         Move slowly and steadily; do not bounce or jerk into a stretch.

·         Avoid locking joints.

 

Back of leg, thigh, hip, lower back, and calf stretches involve getting down and up from the floor.

Getting down

Getting up

·         Face the seat of the chair.

·         Place hands on the seat and lower yourself on one knee.

·         Bring the other knee down.

·         Place left hand on the floor and lean on it, slowly bringing the left hip to the floor. Place right hand on the floor next to the left if you need to steady yourself.

·         At this point you should be sitting with your weight on the left hip.

·         Straighten the legs.

·         Bend left elbow until your weight rests on it. Use right hand for support as you straighten your left arm. At this point you should be lying on your left side.

·         Roll onto the back.

·         Roll onto the left side.

·         Put right hand on the floor approximately at the level of the ribs and use it to push shoulders off the floor. Use left hand to help you lift up.

·         At this point you should be sitting with your weight on the left hip.

·         Roll forward onto your knees while leaning on the hands for support.

·         Reach up and lean hands on the seat of the chair.

·         Lift one knee so that the leg is bent with foot flat on the floor.

·         Lean hands on the seat of the chair and rise up.